• Emerging practices of action in systemic therapy: how and why family therapists use action methods in their work

      Chimera, Chip (University of Bedfordshire, 2015-03)
      This thesis sets out to explore the processes involved when family therapists decide to introduce an action method into a therapy session. Action methods are defined as therapist led physical activities which are introduced into the session for the purpose of enabling the healing of relationships. The literature is examined in relation to connections between family therapy approaches using action and psychodrama psychotherapy relation to work with families and couples. Literature which integrates the two approaches is identified. The core of the study is composed of five interviews with experienced and senior family therapists about how they use action with clients in sessions. It focuses on the beliefs, behaviours and actions which are present at the moment the therapists decide to use action. The interviews examine the therapists’ training and current practice culture, their guiding beliefs and principles about the use of action and the theories on which they have drawn in considering the implementation of action methods. Participants were asked to describe an episode of action by giving a verbal account as well as undertaking a sculpt of the episode using ‘small world’ figures. The interviews were transcribed and analysed using a unique approach blending psychodramatic role analysis (Williams 1989) with the Coordinated Management of Meaning (CMM) (Cronen and Pearce 1985) a communication theory approach used by systemic psychotherapists. The findings indicate that systemic therapists do not have one overarching theoretical approach to using action in therapy, but draw on a range of different models which may be derived from different systemic approaches. The findings further indicate that theories of action which include neurobiological information processing and embodiment are introduced into systemic trainings as important in understanding how action methods impact on individuals and families. A format for therapists to evaluate their use of action methods is proposed for use in supervision or training. It follows the format that is used in the analysis, using psychodramatic role analysis and a CMM hierarchical structure which proposes opening space, spontaneity and playfulness as markers for the culture, identity and relationship levels of the analysis.