My friend John once had a difficult period in his marriage. He and his wife Kate became estranged towards each other, as the feelings of disappointment and fleeting romantic attraction overwhelmed them. They no longer could see each other as a partner in life, since irritation brought about hidden conflicts. The change in attitude towards themselves and their expectations from each other helped John and Kate save their marriage.
They both realized the importance of change, as the prospect of divorce was looming. The change itself transpired after a session with a family therapist and a series of meaningful conversations, in which they opened up about their feelings and anxieties. The change was not permanent because they achieved a temporary emotional compromise. As time passed and new irritating factors appeared, they had to reassess their marriage again.
In my opinion, the word “change” can be applied to any alterations in behavior. If a husband listens to his wife’s criticism and acts on it, it is a sign of change. My outlook on the change process is too narrow compared to the systemic perspective, even though new actions that are repeated in the future signify consistency and a meaningful change. The systemic perspective presupposes analyzing the entirety of data, while I focus on small but important observations.
The difference between modernist and postmodernist theories lies in the source of knowledge. The former articulates that there is legitimate knowledge, which provides guidance to family therapy, while the later assumes the absence of absolute truth and the importance of clients’ perspective (Chenail et al., 2020; Johnson et al., 2019). The choice of theory influences the overall direction of therapy – in the modernist case, a couple will be guided toward a specific change, while in the postmodernist case, each couple will ascertain its own changes.
If I followed a modernist theory, such as Bowen Family Systems Theory, I would structure all behavioral changes around a family as an emotional unit (Erdem & Safi, 2018). If I followed a postmodernist theory, such as Narrative Theory, I would direct my clients to understand what changes they need themselves (Johnson et al., 2019). Treatment planning process is continuous reassessment of the current state of the clients’ marriage with the purpose of ascertaining specific changes that is needed in behavior. The subsequent implementation of change will depend on the choice of the overarching theory.
Erdem, G., & Safi, O. A. (2018). The cultural lens approach to Bowen family systems theory: Contributions of family change theory. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 10(2), 469-483.
Johnson, D. J., Holyoak, D., & Cravens Pickens, J. (2019). Using narrative therapy in the treatment of adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the context of couple therapy. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 47(4), 216-231.
Chenail, R. J., Reiter, M. D., Torres‐Gregory, M., & Ilic, D. (2020). Postmodern family therapy. In K. S. Wampler, R. B. Miller, & R. B. Seedall (Eds.), The handbook of systemic family therapy: The profession of systemic family therapy (pp. 417–442). Wiley Blackwell.