The Death of Resistance


  • This is the sixth version of a paper originally written in 1979.

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    It is important to remember throughout this essay that “positive” and “negative feedback loops,”“deviation-amplifying,”“deviation-counteracting processes,” etc., are just heuristic devices or metaphors. Human systems do not have such things. Human systems are described by an observer “as if.”


For any conceptual distinction to be useful (5) within the field of family therapy, it needs to lead to some clear answers to the question: What does this distinction mean for clinical practice?

The distinction between (a) the family-as-a-system, and (b) family-therapy-as-a-system leads to a clinical perspective, or stance, that includes a focus on changing. Once this focus is clear, the therapist can help to create the expectation of changing and consequently promote changing. That is, techniques can be developed using positive feedback loops.1 Moreover, this distinction leads to a therapeutic stance in which not changing is a surprise.