Applying Family Therapy : Steven Walker and Jane

Children's Book Reviews

As a social worker I trained at a time when family therapy was still seen as a successful method of intervention. But as the authors acknowledged it was criticised in the 1980s primarily because “practice seemed to be based on a denial of the unequal power relationships underpinning family dynamics …”. However, currently the authors assert that family therapists will gain “…by positioning themselves within communities, in tune with economic and cultural experiences by more explicit acknowledgement of the social aspects to people’s lives” a sort of ‘ecological family therapist.’

What I found particularly interesting in this book was the first chapter looking at the difference between family support which in the authors’ opinion was ‘ascribed low priority’ and family therapy. What the authors acknowledge is that “a great many in family support roles will be using similar techniques and strategies consistent with the systems theory that underpins family therapy practice”. Throughout reading the book, I wandered why the authors had not changed the title and looked at family support using family therapy techniques.

In the book there are good reviews of family therapy and current developments including ‘socially inclusive practice’ in which practitioners adopt a community practice approach that it is felt could transform neighbourhoods if a holistic approach is adopted that engaged with other professionals and families from socially excluded groups.

What is potentially significant about this book is the way it acknowledges past weaknesses of family therapy, for instance its lack of acknowledgement of the individual experience of the chid and begins to incorporate issues like children’s rights and anti oppressive practice into mainstream thinking.

Like so many therapeutic interventions, family therapy provides social workers and other professionals us with useful tools to understand and work with children and families. This book is a useful addition to the professional toolbox.

Review by
Christopher Durkin
Senior Lecturer in Social Work
University College Northampton

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