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CHAPTER SIX:Cultural and family ethos in systemic therapy

IngaBritt Krause Karnac Books ePub

Paolo Bertrando

“The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity. (One is unable to notice something—because it is always before one’s eyes.) The real foundations of his enquiry do not strike a man at all. Unless that fact has at some time struck him.—And this means: we fail to be struck by what, once seen, is most striking and most powerful”

(Wittgenstein, 1953, p. 29)

In this chapter, I will outline the evolution of my own practice in the light of my experience with other cultures, both in supervision of cases around the world, and in my everyday work— however limited—with minority or ethnic groups. Such experiences have made me slightly suspicious of my own attitude toward “simple” or “taken-for-granted” cases—cases where I think I know everything about clients because I have the (erroneous) feeling they are “just like me”. In order to deal with this phenomenon, we have to reflect on the nature of families, on the one hand, and of culture, on the other.

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CHAPTER FIVE: With an exile’s eye: developing positions of cultural reflexivity (with a bit of help from feminism)

IngaBritt Krause Karnac Books ePub

Gwyn Daniel

“What seems to you

so nimble and fine,

like a fawn,

and flees

every which way,

like a partridge,

isn’t happiness.

Trust me:

my happiness bears

no relation to happiness”

(Taha Muhammad Ali, 2006)

Cross-cultural work most starkly reminds therapists not to be too ready to attribute meaning to the utterances of others, a tendency which probably constitutes one of our profession’s “occupational hazards”. The tightrope we walk between connecting with the meaning systems of others and staying aware of the all the nuances that constitute difference is a never ending one. It involves making the imaginative leap into others’ worlds to search for meaning and coherence, especially in what may seem strange and inaccessible (Krause, 2002b), as well as acknowledging that difference is inevitable, and requires respecting “the other as other with whom one has connections but whose inner space cannot be colonized” (Frosh, 2009, p. 189). The ability to communicate across difference involves risk taking and extending ourselves beyond our own cultural comfort zone; in fact, these very processes bring forth information about what are “taken-for-granted” comfort zones. Thus, we are required to be aware both of our current prejudices (Cecchin, Lane, & Ray, 1994) and to recognize constraints in our thinking that might be indicative of prejudices we have yet to recognize or articulate. This can be defined as being self-reflexive, but self-reflexivity in a context of cultural diversity does not seem to be an adequate concept. I prefer to think about cultural reflex-ivity.

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Inga-Britt Krause Karnac Books ePub

About the reflective loop

Because there is no perfect fit in communication and because there is even less fit in cross-cultural communication, therapists who work cross-culturally must sometimes take great risks. Taking risks means that mistakes will be made, and therapists therefore also need to be able to get unstuck in ways that are respectful and do not lead to further discrimination. The “reflective loop” is an exercise that can be used to minimize discrimination. In it, I adopt the language loop (Smith, 1997) to a process that begins as self-reflection and moves on to questions that aim to be open, respectful, and curious and are likely to lead to new experiences for clients and therapists and, eventually, to a dialogue (or a language loop in the way used by Smith that, in turn, will call for further self-reflection by the therapist, new open questions, and new dialogues. I also follow Hildebrand (1998) in assuming that experiential learning is the most comprehensive way to learn. As an exercise, the reflective loop is therefore not aimed at how therapists can give up their own models and ideas in a simplistic way or at how they can adopt foreign ideas as a kind of idealization of “the other”. Rather, it is aimed at how therapists can develop ways of thinking about their own ideas and conceptions as only one possible way in which things can be done. By these means, it is aimed at enhancing sensitivity to cultural and ethnic differences.

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CHAPTER EIGHT: The personal and the professional: core beliefs and the construction of bridges across difference

IngaBritt Krause Karnac Books ePub

Barry Mason


This is a chapter that has evolved out of practice, theory, and personal experience. It arises from a long-standing focus on the relationship between the development of my own personal core beliefs and the influence of those beliefs on my clinical work as a family and systemic psychotherapist working with individuals, couples, and families from different cultures and religions. A central question for me has become not only how I can help clients find a systemic both–and position, and how the therapeutic relationship can encompass a both–and position, but also, to what extent I can find such a position in relation to my personal beliefs and my professional task. Some of the content herein comes from a certain disillusionment with some of the more recent developments in family therapy, and could be said to be a continuation of the work that contributed to the publication of the book, Exploring the Unsaid (Mason & Sawyerr, 2002), which sought to encourage practitioners to take more risks in working cross-culturally. This was based on the view that interpretations of the developments in theory and practice were hindering, as well as aiding, us in creating effective clinical work. As Alice Sawyerr and I wrote in our introduction to that book, “to develop intimacy, to develop closeness of whatever kind, one has to be prepared to take chances and risk vulnerability” (p. xix). This chapter is written with that in mind.

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CHAPTER TWO: Can we tolerate the relationships that race compels?

IngaBritt Krause Karnac Books ePub

David Campbell

“The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It’s getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, after careful consideration, getting them wrong again. That’s how we know we’re alive: we’re wrong. Maybe the best thing would be to forget being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride. But if you can do that—well, lucky you”

(Roth, 1997, p. 35)

A personal statement

In the summer of 1962, I had just graduated from high school in Kansas City, and was preparing to go to university at a small men’s liberal arts college in Ohio. One hot day in July, I received a letter from the college informing me that “amongst the 280 men in the incoming class were two Negroes …” (I will never forget the way this word, with its capital “N” stood out on the page.) The letter continued to ask if I would have any objections if one of these men were assigned to share a room with me. Partly I was shocked by this and partly I was very curious, so I wrote back saying, “on the contrary I would be very interested to share a room with one of these men” … and so it happened.

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