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The Systemic Psychotherapy between Science and Intuition

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The Systemic Psychotherapy between Science and Intuition


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in this presentation I return – with several modifications -to issues I already treated and aslo recently this new version has been prepared for the Conference “The Anatomy of (un)reason” held in Krakow, Poland, October 10 – 12° 2014. the presentation has to be followed by Massimo Giuliani’s presentation “Beyond Medicine – Beyond Psychology – Beyond Post-Modernism: The Milan Approach to Systemic Psychotherapy” http://prezi.com/2lgk1ozulcx7/the-milan-approach-to-systemic-psychotherapy/


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the aim of this presentation is to contribute to answer to a question that psychotherapists conforming to different schools of thought know very well


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“what am I REALLY doing when I lead a therapy session?” despite therapists may try to remain faithful to their refernce theories and to the narratives by which they describe their approach to psychotherapy, there is always a gap between what they actually do and waht they tell that they do – included the theoretical explanations and modelizations of what they do my claim is that this is an unavoidable and even positive phenomenon


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in trying to answer to the question I’ll draw from my own experience as a Systemic Psychotherapist and a Teacher of the so called “Milan Approach” to Systemic Psychotherapy in other words, I will not proceed from a generic or “neutral” point of view in the meantime I assume that the conclusions I will reach can be shared, in many cases, with professionals conforming to different theoretical frames


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the main features and basic assumptions of the “Milan Approach” to Systemic Psychotherapy founded by Luigi Boscolo and Gianfranco Cecchin at the end of the seventies will be outlined in the next presentation led by my colleague and friend Massimo Giuliani the reason why we decided that I should present the first will be clear at the end of my talk


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anyway it will be useful to remark that in the “roaring years” of the Systemic Psychotherapy (approx. 1970 – 1990) practicioners were stunned by the elegance both of conceptual models and of related practices it all looked so easy and simply beautiful on a regular basis the students fell in love with it, beginning to imitate what the Masters used to do small surprise if the results were many often clumsy, not beautiful at all


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with time, we learned that what we usually were doing in therapy not rarely was different from what we were taught and also from what we in turn were teaching to younger professionals


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in the field of systemic psychotherapy many scholars introduced new ideas trying to explain why systemic therapies seemed to be so extraordinary radical constructivism, conversationalism, social constructionism, narrativism … and so on this accelerated a flux of continuous changes in practice the mind-boggling thing was that practice kept being different from all models that tried to explain it


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in 1989 Gianfranco Cecchin gave a talk at the English Association of Family Therapy whose title was “OLD WINE IN NEW BOTTLES”


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“We are forced to repeat things very well known already, but it is still necessary that we keep talking about therapy and explain what we do … If old concepts are still good – if wine is still good – so why not to change the bottle, in other words why not to change the way in which concepts are described? Actually we have no other choice … as you can see, the story of family therapy, or the story of family theory is in turn a narrative structure. Just like the therapeutic process: once you arrive to a certain point, contradictions and unavoidable dissonances force you to look for a different explanation, a new story about what you are doing”


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I’m persuaded that Cecchin was serious and deeply rooted in his own therapeutic identity when he claimed that “actually we have no other choice” my claim, in turn, is that effective therapists are always in advance in respect of their reference model


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I also claim that this occurrence can be explained and it has strictly to do with the nature of a therapeutic process itself during the session the therapist is connected with “something in advance” in respect of the words he uses scholars probing the realm of consciousness can help us to understand why


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Henri Bergson, mathematician, philosopher, Nobel Prize David Bohm, physicist and science philosopher Montague Ullmann, psychiatrist, researcher and psychoanalyst Efstratios Manousakis, quantum physicist at Florida University they seem to have some basic ideas in common about consciousness, though the language they use and some philosophical implications can be different


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7 concepts they share


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consciousness is not “produced” by the brain consciousness is the basic ontological reality individual “substreams of consciousness” are part of a “global stream of consciousness” which comprehends all that exists and existed


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important parts of consciousness, both individual and global, are in a “potential state” that can be actualized by the operations of the mind intuition works without the help of memory both the production of theories and the perception of “matter” are operations implying memory and comparison


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intuition and action are in a close relationship


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once a therapist becomes aware of what a patient “remembers/knows” about being in a certain state, the therapist can make an idea of what is allowed and forbidden to do with that patient this implies what the practice of Milan Approach shows since decades theories and related techniques much more than the sole “empathy” are not only useful, they are necessary to join a system and let the therapeutic relationship take place


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but once the therapist joined the system, change will occur only by forgetting theories, de-reifying narratives, relational patterns, roles and so on in other words the use of techniques paves the road to intuition which, in turn, has affective qualities that can be represented through metaphors which eventually, in Ullman’s words are “the stuff of reality”


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though different for what concerns the setting, in its ultimate roots the process is not quite different from that of creation in narrative


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Ernest Hemingway used to say about narrative process:   “… I always try to write on the principle of the iceberg. There is seven-eighths of it underwater for every part that shows. Anything you know you can eliminate and it only strengthens your iceberg. It is the part that doesn’t show. If a writer omits something because he does not know it then there is a hole in the story.” 


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about 40 years ago in Italy many of us fell in love with a song composed by a weird couple of guys, the songwriter Giorgio Gaber and the painter Sandro Luporini the song was called “Reality is a Bird ”


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“a strange bird fascinates me it has no past nor remains the same I must anticipate it I must go after it otherwise I’ll die for normality”


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it’s up to you to wonder where it’s going to …“ “reality is a no-memory bird


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in the most crucial moments of a session, a psychotherapist is abducted by a peaceful feeling of nothingness whence gush those


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intuitions metaphors actions that decide the destiny of a psychotherapy


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now Massimo Giuliani will introduce you to what we pretend the “Milan Approach” should look like it will be evident that the great value of its epistemological, theoretical and technical framework resides mainly in what the approach allows and forbids to do during therapy sessions


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that is, opening the gates to the unpredictable to the new to what will never be liable to a complete description


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Thank You!


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