Second order change falls outside of the accepted

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Unformatted text preview: pist interrupts the dysfunctional recursive sequence to help the family move to a desired level of functioning. Changing the symptomatic sequences involves two types of corrective action: first and second-order changes. Behavioral sequences in families tend to fluctuate within a limited and acceptable range. Therapeutic modifications that occur within this range are called first-order changes. Making these limited first-order changes solves many problems. For example, a mother striving to improve her family’s nutrition may broaden her choice of what to serve for dinner so long as it does not exceed her family’s preferences. Second-order change falls outside of the accepted range of behaviors, and is often precipitated by new circumstances and/or the family’s natural evolution through developmental stages. Second-order change is often preceded by a major shift in the family rules and may result in a fundamental change in the family structure. When first-order changes no longer bring about an adequate solution, many families are able to make a second-order change. But in other circumstances the attempted solution to the problem may become a problem itself. Thus, when these families seek treatment, the therapist might provide direct advice, or help the family generate alternate behaviors, which may be within the realm of firstorder change. However when the cycle that maintains the problem is too rigid or a structural change is called for, the therapist may need to consider second-order change. For example, a parent who is struggling with an adolescent child’s eating habits may try to force him to eat particular types of food. The child responds by refusing to eat, reinforcing the parent’s concern that the child is not eating properly, and she tries to take even greater control. The mother’s escalating attempts to control her son and his increasingly stubborn refusal have become the problem. Watzlawick, Weakland, and Fisch (in Hoffman) refer to this recursive cycle as the game without end. The therapist might first try “a little push,...
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