Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Avoiding Thinking About Family Systems Therapy

I have had a post running around in my head about Virginia Satir, Jay Haley, Milton Erickson and Don Jackson, and all the family systems theory people who were such giants 30 years ago, names to conjure with: how they intellectually descended from Gregory Bateson; how their work ultimately broke up and proved of only limited use when confronted with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and autism - which they implied were just extensions of regular human difficulties and thus treatable by their methods if one was sufficiently skilled; of their tendency to try and apply their therapy ideas to cultural issues and international relations: and of a great weakness in Wikipedia in reporting facts in a circle, such as the knowledge that Satir greatly influenced the development of NeuroLinguistic Programming! without having to mention that NLP turned out to be utter crap.  There's a whole cultural history of the social sciences in there, and a discussion of the dangers of The Inner Ring, as described by CS Lewis, and a few snide remarks that are really quite clever, if I can only work them into a spot.

But I don't want to think that hard and work that hard.  Am I just intellectually lazy?  Bored? Mildly depressed?  Whichever, it points up a distinction between cleverness and intelligence.  At the moment, I am certainly not the latter, though I may still qualify as the former.  Live, not in writing, that is.  I'm much more interesting in person.

Which would also make a good post, wouldn't it? Cleverness vs Intelligence, whose got which among the famous? Colbert and Stewart could be intelligent but are merely clever - except that's how they make oodles of money and get a reputation for intelligence, so who's the smart one? Not I.

I have also been thinking, related to Who Struck John's comment under my Risk Aversion post, of the odd question of whether we really believe even simple arithmetic, when it goes against our feelings of gain and loss. That, in the context of compounding interest on investments over time. It doesn't take very advanced math.  You could sketch it out with just arithmetic. Yet somehow, we don't act as if we really believe it.  I haven't the energy to make a decent pro-and-con, but-have-we-considered, Fairly Solid Conclusion out of it.

By simple count, I am posting less often these last few months. OTOH, I usually post less in August, and often July as well.  But it still suggests I am entering a dry period, and may not provide you with much sport for a while.


james said...

Dry spells seem to happen. Did you read Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman? His time at Cornell was depressing for a while.

Dubbahdee said...

Then I shall bait you, shall I.

Hmmmm...what prodding stick shall I use to rouse the bear tonight?

Sam L. said...

Have some hot tea. Life happens. Downturns occur. Can't be 'UP' all the time. You're going good, doing well, and we'll wait for you.

SJ said...

Is that "Family Sytems Therapy" related to the trend of de-institutionalization?

In the reading I've done on the subject, I see lots of references to attempts to build Community Mental Health centers.

Which might have worked, if the people who were receiving medicine for schizophrenia/bipolar-disorder/etc could be trusted to keep taking their medicine...when not confined inside an institution.

And there were hints that the medical community, the legal community, and the advocates for de-institutionalization suffered from several category-errors when reasoning.

Some kinds of mental illness respond to weekly therapy sessions; other kinds don't. But the rhetoric blurred these categories.

Texan99 said...

Sometimes I can't bring myself to post anything because it's been so long since a post generated a comment that made me think someone had read it in the same language I wrote it in.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

SJ, well seen. That connection was not direct, but it was real. The primary focus of de-institutionalization was rights-based, and not unreasonable. One does have the right to be out in the world if one is not dangerous. Yet that undercurrent of "society is at fault, culture is at fault, families are at fault, these people are just a little different and evil fascist control-freaks lock them up." A few movies were made with this theme, and you can still find people who think that way. Family systems theory was one of the ideologies that promoted this. It was not the only, nor the worst offender. But it was part of the mix.

Texan99 said...

It used to make my sister, who was a social worker at the time, so angry when I fell for "Cuckoo's Nest" themes. She always said it was a ridiculous romanticization of what it was that landed people in institutions, and what the realistic alternatives were. From my teenage perspective, I just assumed there were always nefarious forces threatening to lock people up for being inconvenient or unconventional. Of course, being that age, I also assumed there would always be someone around to make sure the troubled young people would have food and shelter.

SJ said...

Come to think of it, how many film classics have the eccentric-but-ultimately-clear-headed character at the core?

Think Jimmy Stewart in Harvey. Or Gary Cooper in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Or even the modern therapists' nightmare in What About Bob?

On the other side of it, find a film showing a character who was crazy, needed help, and was helped by an institution.

Expand the question to novels.

The culture-makers have been selling the idea of "not crazy, just different" for several generations.

The book that I linked to is highly critical of the de-institutionalization movement. I'd love to see a more sympathetic treatment of the subject, to get a better grasp of the good and bad of the subject...except that no one else appears to be interested in writing about the subject.

Retriever said...

I wish you WOULD write it. I remember reading all that dreck dutifully in seminary, discussing it, roleplaying it in class, and my supervisors in CPE being infatuated with it. I thought it was BS because I could see that nothing worked with ragingly manic people like certain relatives of mine back then. ALso,as one of the relatively sane members of the family I just had no patience with the endless potshots taken at well meaning caregiving relatives that sought to blame them for the pathology of severely mentally ill members of the family. WHile I was very aware of things like child abuse and neglect and their effects upon mental health from my years working with abused kids, I felt that even that wasn't really amenable to cure by the family systems stuff. Because things like chronic alcohol abuse or substance abuse and/or severe mental illness and personality disorder, not to mention unemployment, illegitimacy, legal problems etc. were the glaring backdrop to everyday life. k

Family systems therapy is the fixing of troubled families as quickie cookbook CBT is to the cure of bipolar disorder. Ie: It doesn't do it.

Too tired and worn down by work and my own family system right now to say anything more edifying...