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been less numerous in the United States where they have often been absorbed
into strategic teams working in the MRI model or using an Ericksonian approach. Chapter 4: Strategic & Systemic
During this time, the Milan group was again influenced by Bateson’s writing,
particularly the idea of cybernetic circularity as a model for human systems.
Boscolo and Cecchin began a dramatic shift in their work from strategic to a
systemic view. Their work and teaching then led to the method of circular
questioning and the publication of, Hypothesizing, circularity and neutrality: Three
guidelines of the conductor of the session by Selvini Palazzoli, Boscolo, Cecchin, and
The team translated Bateson’s ideas of cybernetic circularity into a systemic
treatment model. Hypothesizing is the assessment process; circularity and
circular questioning is the technique; and neutrality is the basic therapeutic
stance. Their systemic hypotheses account for all the elements of the family
problem and how they are connected. It is a model that emphasizes that the team
and the family are engaged in a research project together. The validity of the
hypothesis is less important than its utility in providing new information about
how the family operates and helps the family progress.
Circular questioning was based on Bateson’s idea that “knowledge is always
apprehended by mechanisms that scan for difference” (p. 11). The questions
provide feedback to the therapist regarding family relationships. The therapist
conducts the investigation and hypothesizing based on information gained about
relationships in the family and about differences and change. The questions fall
into several categories: differences in perceptions of relationships (who is closer
to grandfather); differences in degree (how bad was the fighting this week);
now/then differences (did the fighting start before grandfather died or after);
and hypothetical or future questions (if grandfather had not died, how would life
Therapeutic neutrality grew from Bateson’s assertion that all parts of the system
should be accorded equal weight. In being neutral th...
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This document was uploaded on 04/03/2014.
- Spring '09