Approaches Using Communications Theory

Here the emphasis is on the patterns and styles of communication in the family. It was observed, from the earliest days of the family therapy movement, that families with symptomatic members often had major communication problems. These may involve:

• The cognitive understanding of what the members are saying to each other. What one member intends to convey to another is not correctly understood.

• The communication of feeling. It is often important, if a family is to function well without any members developing symptoms, for the members to be able to communicate effectively to each other how they feel.

• Communication and power. Jay Haley has eloquently pointed out that when one person communicates with another, that person is maneuvering to define a relationship. This probably does not apply to every communication. Some are simply intended to provide needed information, such as what time it is. Yet if one person has persistently to ask another one—the same other one—for the time this may say something about the relationship between the two.

Distinguishing one school of family therapy as particularly concerned with communication should not be taken to mean that therapists of other schools are not interested in family communication. It is merely a matter of emphasis. Indeed, Haley, who has been described as being of the "communication and power'' school, also emphasizes the importance of establishing appropriate hierarchical arrangements within families —a concept that has much in common with structural therapy.

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