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Keywords:

  • family therapy;
  • second order change

Since its inception, family therapy (FT) has been distinguished by its explicit theoretical and practical focus on families and relationships as systems, with an emphasis on second order rather than first order change. As a result of these conceptual underpinnings we suggest that FT needs to look for manifestations of change which differ from individually focused disciplines such as clinical psychology. Studies of second order change have most commonly appeared in the form of conceptual papers and doctoral dissertations. We begin by revisiting the conceptual underpinnings of second order change. Building on this framework, we develop these aspects of change within the framework of recent developments in the empirical study of change. Finally, we point towards some promising directions for further evaluative work of FT as well as ways to incorporate some of these principles into training of FT students.