The study emanates from the need to explore the perceptions, opinions and experiences of family therapy practitioners with regard to the epistemological shifts in family therapy theory and intervention, reflecting team practice, and the development of the personal/professional self. The need arose as a result of the evolution of family therapy from first-order cybernetics to the postmodern theoretical environment and the potential impact of such a shift on the capacity for reflexivity and authenticity in practice for family therapy practitioners at Family Life Centre. Family Life Centre provides training for staff members, sessional workers and students (social work and psychology) who have an interest in the practice of family therapy. In the past however, such training has focused more on the experiential dimension, specifically within the context of reflecting team practice. Theoretical training has been inadequate, with practitioners’ knowledge typically gained from under- and post-graduate studies. Knowledge of family therapy theory in terms of approach and extent is varied. While the diverse theoretical backgrounds of counsellors at Family Life Centre adds texture and depth to the practice of family therapy, the possibility of confusion exists, and may create a lack of confidence and authenticity in practice. Family therapy practice at Family Life Centre leans towards a postmodern paradigm, although eclecticism is valued. The multiplicity of approaches to family therapy necessitates an awareness of one’s chosen paradigm, and understanding of the potential impact of the self of the family therapy practitioner upon the therapeutic encounter with a client family. A theory or theories that represent a personal embodiment for the practitioner are more likely to be experienced as authentic to the self of that practitioner and thus impact positively on the development of the therapeutic relationship with the client family. The significance of this therapeutic relationship with regard to healing is well documented in the literature. The capacity of the practitioner for reflexivity regarding the development of the personal and professional self is both essential and ongoing, a journey that should never end. An exploratory design was used to explore the impact of epistemological shifts and reflecting team practice on the development of the personal and professional self of the family therapy practitioner. Exploratory designs are used when the phenomenon is little known. The study can be seen as applied research, aimed at extending the knowledge of human behaviour relating to intervention in the field of family therapy. In order to achieve insight into the perceptions, opinions and experiences of family therapy practitioners, an interview schedule was used to collect the relevant data which was then analysed and from which conclusions were drawn. From the conclusions it is apparent that family therapy practitioners are not always clear on the difference between the modern and postmodern paradigms, although they are certain of the approach they use in practice. It is evident that the approach used is not necessarily ‘chosen’ and that many respondents are actively engaged in contemplating their own professional development. The experience of reflecting team practice in family therapy is seen as extremely valuable to the respondents in terms of the opportunity for learning on a number of levels, including theoretical awareness, skills development and self-awareness. However, reflecting team involvement seems to evoke anxiety for many of the respondents, relating to issues such as evaluation, team composition, power dynamics, fit with the self, as well as the fit for different client families. The development of the personal and professional self is seen as both essential and ongoing, highlighting the necessity of this crucial task in the complex arena of family therapy practice.
Thesis (PhD (Social Work))--University of Pretoria, 2007.