PostmodernTherapies NEWS                 06/30/02
(Also known as PMTH NEWS)

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People don't get acclaim for something 
they have done, but for something 
a whole lot of other people have done. 
Lynn Hoffman
March 25, 2002



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What's So Important
Lynn Hoffman?
Lois Shawver

As I told you in the last issue of PMTH NEWS, for months our online community  we call "PMTH" has been planning to have a big online shindig. in which we would talk with Lynn Hoffman about her new book, Family Therapy: An Intimate History. 

Well, it finally happened.  I'll tell you all about it (in the article to your right), but before you read about it, I want you to know why I think Lynn Hoffman, and her new book,  is so important.

I think Hoffman is important because she symbolizes the turn from non-postmodern approaches to postmodern ones.  She was trained in Bateson and Haley's models of therapy that broke with earlier models by creating their own.  But, if you read her book, you can see that she always had a mind of her own. 

Hoffman's professional life that she charts so intimately shows her stepping into one therapy philosophy after another and then watching the therapy with an open enough mind to think it through.  She doesn't claim a God like vision of the one true therapy at the end of her career, however.  What she gives us, instead is her "shelf theory," to describe her own development..Her's the way she explains it:

[Shelf theory] is my own invention.  It holds that the only way to escape from one ledge of confusing concepts is by finding another ledge on which to stand.  I am using a spatial metaphor, which indicates I am still trapped within the flybottle of Western grammar, but never mind, I only need a device that acts as another shelf.  Once safely there, I can see the limits of the parameters that formerly enclosed by entire universe.  Then I can say, with Alice, "Oh, you're nothing but a pack of cards."

This is very inspiring language to a postmodern like me.  In fact, I think this passage has the postmodern vision by its tail.  The idea is that even though we may never get a God's eye view of how to do therapy, if we are true to our best model of the moment and  have the courage to keep revising it when we are disillusioned,  then we can function, and do valuable work.  Our therapy is  just a pack of cards, perhaps, but it works for now, and working is good enough.  It takes the client out of the hot water, too, and onto another "shelf".

You may need to read more about our event and how Hoffman answered our questions to get a  sense what she presently thinks of as good clinical work.  But, let me give you a clue here.

Hoffman is inspired by the notion of a "reflecting team."  It's got its drawbacks as you will see, but "the reflecting team concept"  is quite adaptable and can be reshaped in a postmodern way to make it work in a variety of situations.  In fact, it has already been adapted both by the Narrative Therapy (see Michael White above) and Collaborative Language Systems Therapy (see the writing of Harlene Anderson).  Each brand of therapy has reinvented the "reflecting team" by tailoring it to its own needs.

But you'll have to read more to have a deeper picture of what she is now offering her field.  She is sometimes spell-binding when she talks of language.  I like the way she weaves her Wittgenstein around these ideas of language, too.  Note that not that long ago she was new to the later work of Wittgenstein and Lyotard, but now she is using their ideas like an artist.

Lynn Hoffman, therefore, is an inspiration to many of us.  She shows us how to question sales pitches for the better therapy, and more, she teaches us that our postmodern disillusionment with traditional therapy methods doesn't render a therapist's career invalid.  There are honorable ways to work even after the postmodern turn

This, of course, is just my view.  There is no God's eye view for Hoffman, and not for me either.  But I do so much like it up here on this postmodern shelf and I am so pleased to be viewing the horizon before us, with all its unknowns, with my friend and colleague, Lynn Hoffman.  If you have a postmodern disillusionment with tradition, I suggest you join us up here.

What Michael White thinks of 
Lynn Hoffman's book
Lois Shawver
May 25, 2002
Dear Lynn,

Hi! How are you? I've been meaning to write to you for some time now about your wonderful new book - "Family Therapy: An intimate history". In this book you make highly accessible to the reader such a richness of thought, ideas and practice, in a style that is personal, literary and rigorous. This really is an extraordinarily engaging read - about a journey that's quite some adventure - and we are recommending it to all of our students. We are about to enter into negotiations with WWNorton for stocks of this book so that we might include this in the books that we have available for sale at our centre.

I would also like to say that I was very touched by your beautiful characterisation of my practice, and appreciative of your accurate account of my engagement with thought which I find so often is misrepresented in other places. This was a gift!

I wish you all the best in your future projects, and will look forward to hearing of these at some point.

Warm regards,
Michael White. 

Winning Acclaim
Lois Shawver

See the quote from Lynn Hoffman above? I have taken it out of context, but it sparks my imagination.  Let me give you the quote in its fuller context:
Hoffman was just graciously accepting a compliment from our own Jonathan Diamond when she said:

I saw Halley Berry win an Oscar last night, and realized that people don't get acclaim for something they have done, but for something
a whole lot of other people have done. In that spirit, I am glad to accept your appreciation.  Lynn

What this sparks for me is that all of us are mouthpieces for each other, each telling a story that includes what we say each other has said and done, giving a mouthpiece to others through our own writing or talking. 

And, when it all comes together into a readable book, as it did with Lynn Hoffman's latest example, then, not only does she stand on the shoulders of her teachers, but they stand on hers as she carries them into a new text and to a whole new group of readers.

Of which, I hope you're one.

Lynn Hoffman 
Around the World
Lois Shawver

Lynn Hoffman gets around, and it seems, and just about wherever she goes, it seems to me, she receives an enthusiastic welcome.  Right after she did her event with PMTH, for example, , she visited a Public Health Nurse conference in British Columbia. and Kiernan O'Rorke Phipps gives an especially good account of Hoffman's appearance at the event.  You can read her account by clicking here:

You might also be interested in reading a little about the group "Rock the Boat" that had the good sense to invite Hoffman to the conference as an invited guest.  Read more about Rock the Boat by clicking here.

I happen to know that Hoffman has other engagements coming up.  When she comes to your neck of the woods, you should make that special effort to meet her.  I'll keep you posted as to what and when you might do that.

PMTH NEWS is always a good (arguably  not the best) online resource of postmodern events and materials around the world.  Watch for our ads and reviews.

Kiernan O'Rourke-Phipps
Lois Shawver

Notice that the the author of the article you could click to above, the article describing Lynn Hoffman's invited appearance at the Rock the Boat conference for Public Health Nurses, is also the author of the article below on "Therapy Metaphors."

You can read more about this author by clicking her name, 
Kiernan O'Rourke-Phipps

Therapy Metaphors
     Kiernan O'Rourke-Phipps

What's in a metaphor ? And what does it have to do with therapy? 

Nothing much if you believe that metaphors are only an adornment of plain speech, but a great deal if you believe that metaphors are covert equations that organize how we see the world and how we see ourselves and what we do. As a newcomer to the PMTH List I was fascinated by the debate about the metaphors used by PMTH members to describe the practice of therapy. 

First, Jonathan Diamond caught our attention when he used the "therapist as healer" metaphor.  Diamond said, 

Postmodern or modern, it seems to me that ł˝ we all flounder around trying to figure out what it is about therapy conversations that makes them healingł˝.

However, Val Lewis questioned this "healer metaphor"   She said, "Are we stuck with this wound-heal metaphor?" She pondered the the alternative metaphor of therapy as "growth" but she noticed that it, too, had negative implications. It suggested, she told us,  that the client was "somehow stunted" before coming to therapy.

Solomon Yusim seemed to agree with her, saying that the "growth metaphor for therapy" sponsors therapist grandiosity.

As an alternative, Alfred Treptow offered the metaphor of "restoration." But a little discussion showed that this wasn't a perfect metaphor, either.  The metaphor of "restoring" suggests that the client is broken and in need of putting things back the way they were.  Moreover,  Jonathan Diamond felt the "restoration" metaphor had religious connotations, not always a connotation that therapists want.

Finally, Lewis brought up the metaphor of therapy as "conversational space."  That's a metaphor that seems popular on PMTH.  Conversational space  is a metaphor you'll find in the writing of Harlene Anderson.  And, as Lewis suggested, it doesn't imply that there is something wrong with the client.  The client just needs some "conversational space", not growth, not curing of illness, just a space to talk..  Lewis said, "when someone comes in who is grievingł˝they are not really sick or broken so we are not fixers or gardeners or restorers."   Undamaged as clients might be, so the impliation was, they are merely looking for "conversational space"  This seemed to inspire Lois Shawver.

But Murray Gordon said he thought the healing metaphor was not so bad.  It was better, at least, than the medical metaphor of "curing."  "Curing, he said, is something you do to bacon!"  (I think that was a line from a play.) 

So, as you can see, we went through a lot of metaphors and some promising ones that I haven't listed.  There is the metaphor of midwife, for example.and "playwright."

Pam Birrellended our study of therapy metaphors on an inspirational note by quoting from Martin Buber.  I'll share it with you:

'When one person is singing and cannot lift his voice,' said a Hasidic rabbi, 'and another comes and sings with him, another who can lift his voice, then the first will be able to lift his voice.  That,' said the rabbi, 'is the secret of the bond between spirit and spirit.'  The title that Martin Buber gave this Hasidic story was not 'The Healer' or 'The Helper,' but 'When Two Sing.' 

 For me, the discussion of therapy metaphor was valuable because it demonstrated the power of metaphors to frame and reframe our experience of therapy by communicate with, as Lynn Hoffman calls it, a "painted language,"  Metaphorical words we use to paint our world. 

The Postmodern Paradox
Lois Shawver

I want to tell you about my concept of "postmodern paradox." 

I think of "postmodernism" on the model of Jean-Francois Lyotard.  That is, postmodernism to my way of thinking is a basic suspcion about those grand theories that pretend they have solved a certain problem for everyone, for all times.  Postmodern therapies, would be a therapy that is self-conscious about not having one-size-fits-all kind of answers.  Each answer has to be tailored to the situation at hand.

But isn't that also a one-size-fits all kind of answer?  That each answer has to be tailored to the situation at hand?

I think so.  I think in our commitment to avoiding all metanarratives we we can make a metanarrative out of avoiding them.  And that's the paradox.

So what can we do?  That's where you, my reader,  come in.  If postmodern ideas appeal to you, Let let them postmodernism guide you but only so far.  Try reflecting teams, read Lynn Hoffman, read PMTH NEWS, read all the other postmodern authors and texts you know, but in the end, give it your own twist, and  apply it with your own judgment.

At any rate, that's pretty much what I think most of us on PMTH try to do.  We learn from each other, but in the end, each of us is the judge for what we think.  We do not accept authorities to tell us things we don't think out for ourselves.

Postmodern knowledge is not simply a tool of the authorities; it refines our sensitivity to differences and reinforces our ability to tolerate the  incommen- surable.  Its principle is not the expert's homology, but the inventor's paralogy.

If you discover a gap in postmodern philosophy to insert your own voice, your own ideas, then, in my opinion, you have avoided turning it into the "the expert's homology".  Instead, you have opened another conversational space for our ideas to evolve through conversation -- and that's what I call, "postmodern paralogy".

Some Lynn Hoffman Passages
Lois Shawver

We have been studying Hoffman's ideas, as she discussed them in the recnt PMTH event inher name. Now, I'd like to give you just a few windows into her book.  I'll type in passages that reflect some sections I have marked in my copy of her book.

Again, the book I am referring to is Hoffman's book Family Therapy: An Intimate History  Since I am quoting her out of context, I will organize her comment around a question or framework she addresses.

First, what does Lynn Hoffman think of the systemic view of therapy?  Remember, she is one of the key figures popularizing the systemic view in recent years, and she also considers systemic therapy the foundation of her early training in therapy. 

.  So, what does Hoffman think of systemic therapy today, given her recent postmodern turn?  She tells us:

Of course, there are limitations to a systemic view. The insights of critical feminism had a powerful effect on me, making it clear that systemic therapists had to drop a number of wrong ideas  ... One was the belief in a neutral observer with an all encompassing God's eye view.  Another was the notion that a fammily was like a system where all the parts contributed equally.  Finally, the ecological metaphor was misleading.  Applied to human groups, it condoned the sacrifice of the individual for the harmony of the whole.  As Bateston (1972) has observed, nature looks at the death of one of her species and says: "Just what I needed for my ecosystem."

We saw above that Michael White thinks highly of Lynn Hoffman's characterization of his work.  One aspect of White's work might be called "activism."  But, she tells us, it's an activism of a different color than we usually think of. Here's what she says;

What differentiates the activism of poststructural approaches [like that of Michael White's Narrative Therapy] from plain vanilla activism is its emphasis on Foucauldian consciousness.  The enemy is not any single person, group, or ideology, (in White's approach) , but the pejorative langauge games that haunt our ordinary exchanges.  here the enemy is the flybottle, which stands for the culturally accepted ways of thinking and talking that control our postures and beliefs.

Why was Hoffman so impressed with Tom Andersen's notion of "reflecting teams"?

I began to think that burnout was an understandable side-effect of ineffectual help.  In fact, the most pressing task of case conferences was often to upgrade the morale of the discouraged theapist.  Once she felt more hopeful, she could often find new ways to deal with her intractable clients, if only to bear witness and 'be there".

When I first introduced the reflecting process, I noticed it had an amazing serenity effect.  For one thing, everyone had his or her own space bubble.  Unlike the case conferences of the past, there was no chance of being interrupted or not being able to get a word in edgewise.  An anticipatory quietness prevailed; people would go off on riffs that were often inspiring and had the rest of us in a trance.



Postmodern Geriatrics
Lois Shawver

What's good about getting old?  In our youth oriented culture, it seems that youth is ideal.  Aging is what we do to avoid something worse.

Howver,lLook at what Ken and Mary Gergen have to say about the joys of growing old.

Click here

Send a Note to a Friend 
about PMTH NEWS?

Lois Shawver

Would you like to tell someone about PMTH NEWS?  Just fill out the form below  and  click on the "send" button.  The invitation that goes out will include a special link that your friend can click on to arrive at this site.

Friends email:

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Past Issues of PMTH NEWS
Available Here

Lois Shawver

If you think you would like to read past issues of PMTH NEWS, you would like to look over the table of contents of those past issues.  The Table of contents can be reached by clicking here and you can then link to the earlier issues you desire to read.



Lynn Hoffman 
Lois Shawver

The Lynn Hoffman event began on Sunday, May 26.  The online method for staging the event was "rapid email posting".  With this method a group of people can talk together, sharing email, and it feels almost like we're sitting in the same room.  It's because the talkers are all at their computer, typing in questions or responses and reading what each other says for a designated period of time.

In our most recent event, the well known author Lynn Hoffman was center stage.  She sat at her computer for three hours straight while the rest of us fed her  question after question.  She's a fast typist, and she managed to keep up with us. 

I'm going to tell you how the event went.  This is not quite a verbatim account of things, but my edit pen is not extensive.  I sometimes summarize and paraphrase the questions to keep the length of the article in reason .  Most important, I omit some of th stuff that would require a lot more context to understand and I introduce paragraphing in some of Hoffman's writing to enhance readability in my columns of text format. 

But I think you'll get a good picture of what we said to Hoffman, and what she said to us. 

the event started with Jonathan Diamond commenting.  In view of his suggestion you might want to know that Diamond is an author himself.  He said:

...sometimes an author facing a certain kind of problem in their life creates a theory to solve it. 

Then Diamond asked:

Lynn can you talk a little about what the postmodern theories that attracted tell us about you? 

Lynn Hoffman responded telling us about her own personal life and and how it related to her postmodern turn.  She said

I discovered how dysfunctional [both] my family of  origin, and the [family] I had made, were but that didn't help.  I just felt more and more disabled. What attracted me to a less pejorative account of therapy was that it worked [for me].

In other words, having a family diagnosed as "dysfunctional" only contributed to the problem.  She found a more positively worded therapy helped her more.

Then Jerry Shaffer asked Hoffman about the title of her book.  He wanted to know why she named it an "intimate history"  Hoffman responded:

You guessed it, the title came from the publisher. I thought it should be called "Days With the Magicians," but they were adamant because they said the work would end up in the witchcraft section. 

And Jerry also said:

Lynn, in your preface you say:

        "I was shocked when, as recently aS 1994, I began taking one of the new drugs that alter serotonin levels and experienced immediate and lasting relief from the catastrophic fears that had crippled me throughout my
entire life" (xii).

Could you say something about your view of the role of medication in therapy

Hoffman answered:

As for medication, in my case discovering zoloft was crucial,
as well as surprising, and so I am a big fan of medical
discoveries. However, I would add that this is not the whole
answer, ,,,

Then, Judy Weintraub asked:

your story really brought home for me the paradox of postmodern ideas, especially not knowingness and the non-expertness of the
therapist.  Several times in your story, you mentioned needing to unlearn your training in order to do what you thought was best

What are your thoughts about how to teach postmodern therapeutic skills and approaches without at the same time encouraging modernist reification of what is taught?

Hoffman's response was partly metaphorical. She said to Weintraub:

As for having to figure out how to "teach" what I ended up trying to describe [doing in my book], I am glad that I have retired. As soon as you operationalize the kingfisher, you no longer have the flash of blue. 

But there are many good imaginations working on that one. The "reflecting process"
has been a way that respon- sibility for success is distri- buted in a very egalitarian way, and reification is less likely. 

But I've come to a view that many types of training leach out the natural human skills...

Let me emphasize the last sentence of her response above.  Hoffman is concerned that our teaching may erase some of our natural skills, rather than build on them.  That does raise interesting questions, doesn't it?  How does a teacher teach theapy without robbing the student of her "natural human skills?"  Good question.

I particularly liked Weintraub's next question. It explored the postmodernism of Hoffman's work.  Weintraub said::

...[T]he way the story is told [in your book], there are a lot of either/or's, either Kohlberg or Gilligan, either indivi- dualism or system, either knowing or not knowing, etc. 

In your sojourn, have you  run across the idea of
both/and?  Do  you think the either/or is a pitfall of the necessary use of meta- narratives in language, or  have you developed vocabu- laries that can capture the both/and aspect of the postmodern?

 And Hoffman answered:

Yes, Judy, "Both/And" has been a central formulation for me. This was an idea of Bateson's, and also Francisco Varela, who called it Star Logic.  You could be on each side of the contradiction while finding a world that embraced them both. 

Henri Michaux wrote, in In the Country of the Magicians: "I once saw a student of magic going up both sides of
a river at the same time. This is hard to do, and the student has to be very careful. One moment's inattention and he will find himself only on one bank. What a humiliation that would be!"

But, Weintraub responded by wondering about the cost effectiveness of reflecting teams that Lynn was proposing.

Hoffman answered:

The truth about reflecting teams, or any teams, is that they are not cost-effective. 

However, there are many ways in which one can, as Val [Lewis] suggested, co-opt an ad hoc network out of the folks available, as Michael White does with his Outsider Witness people:  Even when seeing a family, one can always ask the children to talk while the parents listen, then switch; or with a couple, to draw out each partner in front of the other. Murray Bowen did that all the time, but he didn't have such a good phrase for it as "reflecting." He got stuck in the spatial metaphor of "triangling."

So, Hoffman' suggested we may need to be creative in creating a reflective process and not rely on the original model of a team of reflectors because, for one thing, the traditional reflecting team, with its group of expensive professionals offering their reflections, is not always cost-effective. Still, she told us, we can work creatively with the idea of a reflecting process.

Next, Priscilla Hill asked Lynn Hoffman:

Do you find yourself drawn to families with some of the same problems that you've had in your own families (family of origin and present family)? Also do you see yourself as most effective with these similar-type families?  I

Hoffman responded:

It's never seemed to me that the "content" of a family's problem drew me [in] because it was like my own - although I do remember working with three wonderful sisters at Ackerman who reminded me of me and my sisters, and commenting on it to them. 

What seems to happen [for me] is that some issue or bit of history may evoke a similar memory in me, and I will then often share that. But I don't think you have to have the same illness to know what might be a good cure. 

So, she is not suggesting that we should work only with people like ourselves.

Next, Kiernan O'Rourke-Phipps asked for consultation on a question of hers. She said:to Hoffman:

I am thinking about the possible difficulties in
reconciling a collaborative stance with doing therapy with batterers. I'm
considering saying that I will only work with the battered (not that I think everyone should take that position--it's just personal, not theoretical). 

Hoffman said she had been confronted with that qustion before and then went on to add:

I have been impressed by the whatAlan Jenkins, who
trained with Michael White, called "Invitations to Re- sponsibility."

And Tom Andersen has been pushing the idea that leaving the "violent man" out of the equation, and isolating him, only increases the chances of more violence. [One way to avoid the problem] would be to do a reflecting  con- versation with the woman while the man listens in, then vice versa. That way you hopefully get both voices. 

But if there is danger, then meeting with the couple
may not be a good idea. By the way, my view is "Render unto Newton the things are are Newton's." I am not a strict postmodernist in
that sense.

To me, that may be Hoffman's most postmodern comment.    Postmoderns move in and out of their Post- modernism.   Postmodernism is not a religion.  It's facing the dearth of scientific proof and the arbitrariness of our answers, our ability to deconstruct them, yet finding another way to carry on, not giving up the ship just because one has not acquired a perfect view of what is true.

And notice how Hoffman's answer suggests we work.  Use creativity, she tells us,  rather than slipping into a final answer like "never work with couples when one of them is violent."  Even with such apparently difficult cases, one can sometimes find a creative way to hold a joint session.

Next, Val Lewis spoke up espressing a controversial idea.  She said:

I always had the distinct feeling that it didn't matter a whole lot what I did as a therapist, in terms of outcomes, but that I  effectively had to tune in to what it was the client was seeking, step into their discourse, and see what evolved from there. 

Then Lewis explained she saw something similar as a lesson from Hoffman's book.  In Lewis' words:

I ... got the feeling from reading all the cases described [in your book], that it still didn't matter a whole lot what was done, and that the differences in approach had more to do with the thera- pist's comfort needs than the client's. 

Do you think that eventually reflecting teams may be made up of peers, and that a therapist can be anyone who is a generous listener? Might the 'profession' of psychotherapy eventually go the way of the dinosaurs? 

In other words, do therapists  waste our time going to school? 

Hoffman answered:

Val, That's the hundred dollar question, isn't it? Will we live to see the end of Dinosaur Therapy?
I like to think of "moving in and out" of postmodernism. It's the same kind of thing as walking up both sides of the river at the same time.

But I do think that post- modernism might have an effect on a profession - psychotherapy - that is due for a big overhaul.  ....

Here's her postmoder moving in and out of postmodernism, again. I think one can't be postmodern if one is "always postmodern," or completely committed to a postmodern view.  That's the postmodern paradox:  To be sometimes postmodern is to be more postmodern than to be thoroughly postmodern.

Then Jonathan Diamond spoke up again.  He asked Hoffman about the origins of Tom Andersen's notion of a reflecting team.  I thought this was an important question.  Few ideas are more innovative in the postmodern therapy  than the reflecting team.  With a reflecting team, generally, the therapy with the clients come to a brief halt and the clients simply listens to what a group of reflectors say to each other as they muse about the clients and their relationships.

I shared Diamond's curiosity and wanted to know how Anderson came to this idea of a "reflecting team."  Hoffman answered:

Jonathan. I am puzzled myself. The way Tom [Andersen] explained the genesis story to me was that he was trying to supervise a trainee who was working with a pessimistic family, and the family kept drawing him into their pessimism. The more Tom would suggest a more optimistic track, the more the trainee would collapse back. 

Then Tom realized that he was doing to the trainee what he [the trainee]  was doing with the family - emphasizing the negative. 

So to get out of the bind, Tom had the idea of switching the light and sound and having the trainee and family listen in, while the team created a more optimistic picture (my words, not Tom's). The really vivid change, however, was when the trainee and family got to comment on what they heard. 

They were so relieved. 

I can just see how that could have happened!  The trainee is being critical of the family and the supervisor is being critical of the trainee's criticism.  Noticing the paradox provide the spark, perhaps, for birth of the "reflecting team."

Next to ask questions was Tom Strong Strong said to Hoffman, "You are an inspiration to my work." But, he added:

A recent Psychotherapy Networker review of your book suggests you've
become TOO  postmodern... I'm there with pompoms [for postmodernism, too....[but how] do we answer to this notion that we are dismissive ideologues when it comes to the work of our colleagues?

Hoffman replied:

Yes, Tom. I plead guilty to having become a dismissive ideologue.

But I feel that there were always two strands that evolved from the Palo Alto heritage. One came from Bateson and the other
from Erickson. The Erickson strand has done very well for itself;

I felt that the legacy which I
represent, or my loyalties represent, needed a leg up, so I confess to becoming a bit intemperate in my last chapters. It's only fair, I thought, that our strand should be celebrated.
I'm very grateful for
your pom poms.

Oh, that's a funny image, Tom Strong with pom poms.  But on with this story.

Next our Colombian therapist  Jeannette Samper.  asked Lynn Hoffman to comment on how she was able to keep track of all her examples and notes and weave them into such a readable book. Samper also asked when the book would be translated in Spanish.

Hoffman answered:

Jeanette, thanks for your question. I think my book will be translated into Spanish, so that will solve one problem. 

As for "how I wrote this
book," it had to write itself. For eight years, I sat on a contract with Basic Books, and the book never came together. I put out a volume of essays, which Basic would never have published, called Exchanging Voices,
but that was an interim piece. 

And I kept struggling, trying to put all the pieces together of the jig saw puzzle that I saw on the floor of
the universe. 

Then two things happened:  I got breast cancer, and I met
Lois. Somehow, what she could tell me helped corral all the little bits and pieces and the fear that I wouldn't have time to finish my long-awaited
magnum opus did the rest. 

By the time the ms got to Basic, of course, they had decided not to publish any more professional books, so I jumped over to Norton, and they snatched it and put it out at once.  And it turned out that I didn't need chemo- therapy or radiation, so I made a good bargain with the Gods.

I did keep many notes and even videotaped sessions with the key families
that taught me the most, which is why I could bring in so much detail. Of course I also had to look up these long-ago families, and ask their permission to write about their situations, and they corrected any mistakes.
In the future, I hope there will be no "case histories," but rather a joint venture together with the people who come to us, to create the new story, so that they become authors as well as "persons to whom things happened."

Well, however she did it, it's a very readable book, rich with concrete examples and annotated by her personal observations..

Then, Nick Drury asked Hoffman how she suggested postmoderns deal with modernist demands that therapists  have "clearly defined goals", "treatment plans". 

Good question, and just about every postmodern working in a modernist facility has to ask it.  How does a postmodern survive in a modernist world?

Hoffman answered simply that the modernist demands were culturally or historically located and that.  In Europe the prospects for postmodernism seemed brighter right now than in the US.

Reit Samuels was the next to speak up.  She quoted a passage from Hoffman's book in which Hoffman seemed critical of the concept of "growth" in therapy (p. 226).  Samuels asked:

What's so bad about the concept of "personal growth?" I'm missing something here, obviously.

Hoffman responded:

...I am just using a different metaphor than you and, frankly, yours is probably one that feels more comfortable to most of the people that we see.

I flipped over to the page that Samuels mentoned.   I see that Hoffman was citing Michael White's preference for the term "decenter" over metaphors that imagine the therapist is making the client "grow".  Like Harlene Anderson, Hoffman tells us, White sees himself as setting the scene for the clients to make the transformative event happen.  These authors are propsing different metahors.

(Want to see a related passage in PMTH NEWS about the metaphor of "growth"?  Check out a comment by clicking here on Val Lewis's  name.)

Gonzalo Bacigalupe was next to address Hoffman.  He suggested that the reflecting team model could be translated into an office with a single therapist.  She explains this adaptation if you keep reading)

Hoffman agreed adding that, like Harry Goolishian once suggested, it might be good to change the name of "reflecting the am" to "reflecting process."

Still talking about reflecting teams (or reflecting process) , Judy Weintraub spoke up again asking about Michael White's idea that reflecting teams sometimes sounded like a "culture of applause."  (Click here to see what White thinks of Hoffman's new book.)

Hoffman answered:

Judy, I found White's point to be well taken.  In the beginning of reflecting teams, we all began to sound alike:  [We were too often saying phrases like ] "I was struck by", "I was impressed by", "I was interested when." All this amazement then had to
be backed up by statements noting heroism, caring, generosity, etc.
What [White]suggested as a replacement [for such applause] was a distinction between a "thin" description and a "thick" one (anthropological term invented I think by Clifford Geertz). So [White]  got out of the postive/negative polarity without putting up another norm. 

Very clever of Michael White to do that.  In Wittgenstein terms, White just switched langauge games.  Or, as Hoffman might say, he found a new metaphor that allowed for richer reflections.

Next, Priscilla Hill asked if Hoffman would be willing to comment on whether she thought the fields of group therapy and family therapy might work more collaboratively. Hoffman answered:

Priscilla, I was early on trained to see natural groups like the family or close community as being more useful to therapists than artificial groups, but I have abandoned that position. 

And Jerry Shaffer asked if Hoffman thought that the journey of family therapy was one of progress.  (This reminded me of Samuels question about the metaphor of "growth."
I loved Hoffman's response to Shaffer.  She said:

Jerry, I don't think I can say whether my journey is one of progress - like Aristotle (I think) said, No man can say he is happy until the end of
his life. Anyway, I don't believe in progress. 

Onwards and Sideways, as
the saying has it.

And that's it.  lThat's the way the Lynn event went in PMTH.  It was exciting, and her answers were clear and insightful, at least I and many here thought they were. 

To my way of thinking Lynn Hoffman postmodernism is ideal.  She dips in and out of it, takes it seriously but not so seriously that she creates the .
postmodern paradox.

Remember, those of us who talked with her in this event had just read her hot new book:

 Family Therapy: An Intimate History. 

(If you click on the name of her book you can buy your own copy at Amazon.) 



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