Making Systemic Therapy Training Relevant – Theory, Culture, Equality

Monday 4 October 2021

A two day symposium for directors and course leaders of family therapy trainings in the UK and Europe to update & rethink our programmes

Many students on systemic therapy training programmes who are gender or sexuality queer, Black, Brown, autistic or have a learning challenge such as dyslexia often express having encountered ignorance, isolation, alienation or hostility in their programmes.

All aspects of our worlds are going through an unsettled period. How can we immerse ourselves in the perturbation to respond to the anger and fear about social injustice? How can we resist the pull to “return to normal” and risk missing opportunities to review the basic structure and content of systemic trainings. How can we build on some of the radical history of systemic therapy and avoid reproducing inherent bias of the dominant cultures in which we live?

The focus of the symposium

This symposium invites discussion of how systemic therapy training programmes can ensure they go through a process of decolonisation and become culturally relevant. We can discuss how to achieve systemic change across all levels and types of systemic therapy trainings, and develop a rationale for such changes. This is an opportunity for the systemic community’s cornerstones to come together and imagine how programmes can be more culturally relevant for this era.

The term cultural relevance is being used here to address course culturecourse theory and therapeutic practice so

  • students from all backgrounds and identities feel they can be their culturally situated selves and bring their community membership and hxstory into their learning groups
  • the reading lists offer texts which reflect the contribution of black, brown, autistic, sexuality and gender queer, disabled, carer writers and writers from other marginalised and oppressed groups
  • therapeutic and supervisory systemic practice grows through honouring culturally situated and indigenous knowledge, knowing and know-how of all students, service users and staff.

The decolonisation of systemic therapy/supervision education is likely to require

  • a recognition that education is not a level playing field followed up with an active commitment across all levels of training to support academic skills development without colonising voice, style etc.
  • development of critical/appreciative reflection on theory and practice
  • extending what counts as sources of learning such as literary and creative arts, history, ecology, Black, Indigenous and Queer theory, spirituality, policy etc
  • learning from trainees what helps them learn and be open to changing course content, methods and location of delivery and openness to deconstructing and reconstructing the consulting room
  • more first person and collaborative research in keeping with systemic reflexivity and the need to show culturally situated knowledge
  • encouraging trainees to address social injustice as part of their practice and studies
  • showing trainees that they are the future leaders of our field
  • heightening the sense of entitlement and strengthening a wide range of abilities in all students by providing opportunities such as leadership training and writing for publication sessions.