Metaphors of Family Systems Theory : Toward New Constructions book cover
1st Edition

Metaphors of Family Systems Theory
Toward New Constructions

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ISBN 9781572301726
Published November 30, 1997 by Guilford Press
239 Pages

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Book Description

This innovative book probes the language of family systems theory, demonstrating how metaphors shape our understanding both of families themselves and of the goals and process of therapy. The author shows how a deeper understanding of standard theoretical metaphors--and the development of alternatives--can help clinicians and students identify hidden assumptions, incorporate perspectives that may otherwise have been overlooked, and forge creative new meanings in clinical practice.

Table of Contents

1. Metaphors and Theory.
2. The Metaphor of the Family as an Entity.
3. The Metaphor of the Family as a System.
4. Metaphors of Family Boundaries.
5. Metaphors of Family Structure.
6. Metaphors of System Control.
7. Metaphors of Communication in Family Systems.
8. Metaphors of Family Systems Therapy.
9. Multiple Theoretical Metaphors and Multiple Realities.

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Paul C. Rosenblatt, PhD, is Professor in the Department of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. He has published extensively on various aspects of family functioning, especially on families dealing with loss and on the dynamics of business and farm families. He is a recipient of the Morse-AMOCO award for undergraduate teaching at the University of Minnesota.


"As teachers, students, or professionals working with families, we owe an enormous debt to Paul Rosenblatt for the present work. This volume not only signals a major transformation in our understanding of families; it simultaneously transforms the very idea of what it is to understand." --From the Foreword by Kenneth J. Gergen

"Paul Rosenblatt's Metaphors of Family Systems Theory is a wonderful resource for teaching about the power of language to create particular forms of observing and theorizing about the family. For students who are grappling with the challenges of postmodern understandings of family systems, Rosenblatt's book shows with great clarity the political and ethical choices embedded in adopting particular metaphors for examining family life. His work is in many respects a practical illustration of what it means to embrace multiple discourses in constructing our `knowledge' and `understanding' of family. Students quickly see the practical implications of selecting a particular theory or metaphor. Their realization of these choices as situated choices based in relational realities greatly limits their ability to think about theory or practice as value-free and apolitical. Rosenblatt is to be commended for offering an important link between abstract discussions of postmodernism and what it all means, pragmatically, to students of family interchange. This book is an enthusiastically welcomed educational resource." --Sheila McNamee, Ph.D.; C hair, Dept. of Communications, University of New Hampshire, Taos Institute

"The central message of this book is vital: how we use language shapes how we think. Specifically, we are prisoners of our metaphors, and we need to think them through carefully and use them with caution and clarity. It is a wise and timely message, worthy of every therapists consideration." --David B. Waters, Ph.D., University of Virginia, Health Sciences Center

"I think that this book is a great text for graduate courses..." --Walter R. Schumm in Contemporary Psychology

"I recommend this book unequivocally and with some urgency to experienced family theorists and practitioners.... I also recommend this book as a supplemental text for students and professionals." --Stephen M. Gavazzi, The Ohio State University, in Journal of Marriage and the Family

"Multiple perspectives, postmodern sensibilities, and cultural criticism are deeply implicating family systems theory and therapy. Important new questions are being raised at the most fundamental level. Future ways of thinking about families and therapeutic philosophy are likely to be vastly different, yet inclusive, of what currently is standard.

Significant in this regard is Professor Rosenblatt's new book Metaphors of Family Systems Theory. From a social constructionist perspective, the book informs us that theory and therapy have myriad possiblities, well beyond what seems to be taken for granted about the nature of domestic order and intervention, as broad and diverse as the metaphors we live by. This--the idea of metaphor--is the key, and Rosenblatt uses it successfully to present the alternatives. Intelligently organized and clearly written, the book will be a source of insights and valuable information for professionals, researchers, and students alike." --Jaber F. Gubrium, Ph.D., University of Florida

"Metaphors of Family Systems Theory is a text the field has long awaited. With superb clarity, Paul C. Rosenblatt sets forth a constructionist examination of metaphors associated with family systems theory. He is successful in helping deflate the flat planed descriptions and deceptive explanatory assumptions of "realism" too often perpetuated by family researchers and theorists.

"Provides a clever therapeutic intervention into the discourse and understanding of family researchers, theorists, and clinicians by shifting our attention upon the literary form called "metaphor", This recontextualization of family systems theory encourages us to avoid the vulgar and simplistic generalizations brought forth by the arrogant and ignorant conceptual machinery of social science. In Rosenblatt's literary play pen, metaphors are available for freeing us to encounter the world we (and our families) live in--the experiential world of multiple understandings and relationship." --Bradford P. Keeney, Ph.D., Professor and Director of Scholarly Studies, Graduate Programs in Professional Psychology, University of St. Thomas

"In this provocative and original work, Paul Rosenblatt challenges those in what is loosely called 'the family field' to re-think the way they look at families. In a departure from the overused 'paradigmatic' approach, he invites theorists, researchers, and practitioners to adopt an alternative perspective based on the neglected resources of language embedded in metaphor.

What a marvelous array of options he provides in laying out new ways of 'seeing' the family and providing metaphors which provide fresh insights into the problems and potential inherent in the family.

The retreat from logical positivism as a method for understanding human-especially intimate-behaviors requires us to think in new ways. Whether we ultimately choose from among Rosenblatt's rich menu of metaphors, we will nevertheless embark on a rewarding intellectual feast.

With the impetus provided by Rosenblatt's book, we should be able to differentiate the 'strong' systems thinkers from the 'weak' systems thinkers and develop theory and practice accordingly. As Rosenblatt's work makes clear, we have only begun to tap into the resources of language and metaphor as a wellspring from which to nurture creative and innovative approaches to family theory." --Patricia J. Thompson, Ph.D., Feminist theorist, teacher/counselor educator, Division of Professional Studies, Lehman College, CUNY, Bronx, NY
I recommend this book unequivocally and with some urgency to experienced family theorists and practitioners.... I also recommend this book as a supplemental text for students and professionals.
--Journal of Marriage and the Family, 2/9/1997