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A comparison of two systemic family therapy reflecting team interventions


  • Pippa Mitchell,

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    • Clinical Psychology Unit, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
  • Paul Rhodes,

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    • Clinical Psychology Unit, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
  • Andrew Wallis,

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    • Note: correction added on 15 October 2013 after initial online publication on 12 September 2013. Due to an error, the name of Andrew Wallis was initially omitted from the list of authors. This has been corrected in this version of the article.
    • Clinical Specialist Social Worker, Deputy Head, Department of Adolescent Medicine, SCHN (Westmead) Eating Disorder Service, Sydney, Australia.
  • Val Wilson

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    • University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.


This research focused on exploring the experience of fifteen families who attended a first session of systemic family therapy, with reflecting team feedback being delivered in two different formats. In the first the interviewer consulted with the reflecting team alone after the therapy session while the family took a break and then provided feedback directly to the family. In the second the interviewer and family exchanged rooms straight after the session and the reflecting team provided feedback in conversation with each other. Families in both conditions of systemic family therapy described how the presence of a team led to a heightening of their emotion in session, a factor that served to effect a change in family interaction. For families in the first condition the consultation break reduced these intense emotions and provided a unique opportunity to continue independent discussions outside the therapy room. In contrast, those in the second condition reported that their experience was more exciting but it made information retention difficult. For this reason, the use of a therapeutic letter with this group was a crucial aspect of follow-up intervention.

Practitioner points

  • Families see systemic family therapy reflecting teams as helpful, providing an opportunity for new conversations, perspectives and behaviour to emerge.
  • These benefits can be maximized by providing a detailed descriptions of the process beforehand, minimizing phone calls from the reflecting team to the interviewer and providing a break between interview and feedback.
  • When using Andersen's (1991) model, following-up sessions with a therapeutic letter can enhance the retention of information.