Think family: systemic therapy in later life

Susan M. Benbow and Gillian Goodwillie

in Casebook of clinical geropsychology

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780199583553
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754678 | DOI:
Think family: systemic therapy in later life

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This chapter will describe three ideas that are important to systemic practice when working transgenerationally with a special focus on implications for work with older families. These are: 1. The concept of the family life cycle. 2. The idea of using “Social Graces” to inform clinical practice and help professionals respond sensitively to clients whose lived experience and identities may be different to their own. 3. The use of a genogram or family tree.

These concepts are some that are used within the practice of systemic therapy. In systemic therapy over the past 20 years or so there has been a move away from a preoccupation with techniques, which tended not to address issues of professional power and control (Hoffman, 1993). There is now much greater emphasis on the relationship between therapists and those they work with, and the development of ideas about collaboration (Anderson, 2007a) and dialogue (Anderson, 2007b). Alongside this there is debate about “not-knowing” and “client-as-expert” (Anderson, 2005), concepts which involve respect and dignity for family members and a recognition that they hold expertise regarding their own/their family member's illness and/or circumstances. This is coupled with the acknowledgment that the therapist doesn't necessarily know best. This philosophy involves the expertise of the therapist being made available in partnership with the knowledge and experience of family members in order to make space for the family to develop new ways of understanding current difficulties. Dallos and Draper (2005) give an authoritative overview of these developments and their book offers source references for those who wish to follow these ideas up.

We describe here a total of five case studies: four case studies will briefly illustrate the issues that can arise when working with later life families and the fifth demonstrates the value of consulting across professional agencies, utilizing the knowledge and skills that family therapists bring to this work.

Chapter.  8332 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Psychiatry ; Geriatric Medicine

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