Studying family therapy was then more helpful to me in its influence on how I thought about the work than in its practical application. I can instance a few aspects of this influence:
First of all, family therapy theory and training seemed refreshingly eclectic – there was a belief that all approaches, cognitive, behavioural, psychodynamic, systems theory etc., had a useful contribution to make, and there was no need to ‘take sides’ between these theoretical orientations.
Secondly, I was struck by the notion of therapist as ‘scapegoat’, articulated by Robyn Skinner.
Skinner was one of those able to articulate an integration of all kinds of approaches to helping people that fitted exactly with the stage that I had reached in my own learning. The ‘scapegoat’ integrated a notion of emotional ‘transactions’ with systems theory – in engaging with the family the therapist becomes part of a system of emotional transactions. (S)he is not just exchanging ideas with, stimulating new ways of thinking in the family, but is becoming part of the emotional world of the family in all its confusion. The worker does not then just ‘offer interpretations’ that might re-frame the family’s understanding, but (s)he models behaviours within t he family, engages actively in emotional transactions. It is this participation in the family dynamics that entails the more active style of work, and a letting go of some of the securities that support more reflective individual work.