Saying it and meaning it : forging an ethic for family therapy. (notice bibliographique)

by Vincenzo F. Di Nicola, M.Phil., D., Dép.Psych., F.R.C.P,(C)*

In Journal of Strategic and Systemic Therapies Vol 7, N°4 Winter 1988

Revised version of a presentation to the Monday Case Conférence, Allan Memorial Institute, Royal Victoria Hospital, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, May 26, 1986. My title was inspired by Stanley Cavell (1976a). I wish to thank David Roy, Ph.D., Center for Bioethics, Clinical Research Institute, University of Montreal, for his critical dialogue and Mara Selvini Palazzoli, M.D., New Center for Family Studies, Milan, Italy, who provided valuable comments.

*Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, University of Ottawa ; Director, Family Psychiatry Service, Royal Ottawa Hospital, 1145 Carling Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA KIZ 7K4


Ethical questions that arise from family therapy are addressed. The philosophical problem of knowing another persons experience or rzind is posed in the contexi of working with families. This is particularly problematic with paradoxical techniques as they appear to state the truth of the family’s experience in a way that goes beyond the factual, addressing implicit aspects of family interactions which are revealed to the therapist. Concepts are drawn from work on the nature of language and Pwral responsibility and relaied to new techniques in systemic family therapy. A distinction is drawn between the factual problem of the therapist « getting it right » and the ethical problem of « having a right » to point oui ùnplications and consequences offandly interactions. The work of the Milan group on paradox and future questions is related to « counterfactuality ». The liberating function of counterfactuality, operative in both techniques by offéring new ways tofranze the fandly situation and allowing new alternatives to be explored, isproposed as a resolution of ihis ethical problem.


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