PMTH NEWS                                    07/07/99

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 A practice style is evolving [ in family therapy] that is in sharp contrast to the strategized interviewing in which I was trained.  This style is quite free-floating. It shows a high degree of earnestness and concern, attends to suffering, is often personal, is patient to the point of being boring, and has ragged edges an an uneven pace.  It is attentive to signs of goodness or hope, but it is not concerned with "fixing" or "healing." In some ways, it hardly seems professional.  Can it even be called "therapy"?
Lynn Hoffman

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Controversial Topics

Hard to believe, but in the sixteen-days since I introduced the controversial topic conversation, there have been no less than 192 posts on this "topic".  Nope, three  more just came in.  It's now 195 and increasing.  I can't keep up. 

The topic that engages us so, you will recall, was "homosexuality."  It's a hot topic, in part,  because many of us have seen another list dissolve in acrimonious debate over this topic.

Not so here in PMTH, at least so far.  To date, for the most part it has been fascinating and smooth sailing, surprisingly candid, touchingly sincere, sometimes singed with a bit angst,  and more than once humorous enough to make me laugh outloud.  I laughed outloud, for instance, when I read Val Lewis' recent post  (perhaps tongue in cheek?) which read:

Maybe in some ideal future, people will get in the habit of discussing
their sexual preferences freely when they first get to know eachother -- 
such as, I am single, and bisexual but I am not available other than for
asexual friendship at the moment. Or, I am married, but in an open relationship, heterosexual, and I am interested in new sexual partnerships, etc. 

Can we ever be this liberated???

Now, I have told the list about my laughing, and people are helping try to figure out why I think this so funny.

What is it I find soooo funny about that image?  Is itjust me?.  Wouldn't culture lose a lot if things if it became so simple? Yet, you have to admit, it would have its advantages.

And isn't this one reason that people label themselves straight or gay?  Just to let people know?  Otherwise, as Graeme Kane put it, and I might, too, people might get the wrong idea.

I kid you not, folks, in the 10 minutes it took me to write this article PMTH has produced 3 more posts on this controversial topic.  I have a feeling we're not yet through talking about it.  Maybe when it's over I can provide more of a summary.  I have some notes that have been gathered for me by Peter Rober.  Thanks, Peter.

Postmodern Architecture

I can hear you asking: What on earth does postmodern architecture have to do with postmodern therapies?  Well maybe something.  Listen, for example, to Nick Drury enthusing about an architectual idea he considers postmodern.  He says that he sometimes has an impulse to:

to rip all the internal walls out of my home. Somehow I want to make that space more flexible in the way it is divided up.  My pagan post-structuralist urge.
And then I recognise that this is happening in many newer homes today. 

This comment seems to have been a response to a point made that hallways were introduced into homes in the nineteenth century (see Laslett, 1973).  Can you imagine how different family life would have been if everyone had to traipse through other people's private space in order to find the restroom?  Of course, functioning toilets were unusual then, too (Muir, 1983).  And, of course, there are cultures still today where this is the case. 

If hallways and bathrooms change the way we live, then  the design of architectural space can have a psychological impact on our lives -- and so perhaps it is a relevant topic on this list.  Maybe.

Okay, then what is postmodern architecture?  Tom Hicks gives us some clear notes taken from his reading of Jim Powell's work on postmodernism.

Hicks's description of postmodern architecture was enough to capture my attention, but I wanted to know more.  Here is the way I have pieced it together.  The story begins with "modern architecture:"

Modern architecture thumbed its nose at traditional buildings that it criticized as using ornament in a frivilous way. 

In its place, modern architecture created buildings that were much simpler, often glass and steel. Look at the two examples I give you of modern architecture. First, there is the Chase Manhattan Bank  which seems to be almost entirely  a steel and glass box.  On the other hand, there is the Dulles Airport, which, while simple and functional, is also highly stylized and eye-catching.

But compare these with the examples of postmodern architecture.  Postmodern architecture breaks tradition but does not limit its ornamentation in the stark way we find in modernist buildings.  One example I have found of a postmodern building is an art museum  that shows ornate elements together with blocks of modernist  simplicity.  The other postmodern example is a , a Portland building  that creates a dramatic  design on its face with color.

In addition to modern and postmodern architecture, there is something even newer called "deconstructivist architecture."  (Somehow the word "deconstructionism" in Derrida has been changed in the architecture world to "deconstructivism" - and this change seems related to the distinction between constructionism and constructivism in psychology.)
(Click here for a related article.)

Deconstructivist architecture is even newer than the postmodern, but the only example I could find for you of a deconstructivist building turned out to be a joke.  It was really a picture of a building damaged in an earthquake. (Click here to see it. Page down when you get there)

But, supposedly, from what I read, deconstructivist architecture is pure radical innovation and it turns up its nose at the traditional elements that postmodern architects like to weave into their work.

Still, does postmodern architecture have something to offer us as postmodern therapists.  Edward Epp seemed to says "no". He said postmodern architecture

is far too much an intellectual reaction to "modernism" rather than 
[a] genuinely emerging/ evolving as ... style generated from deep, spiritual sources

Epp prefers his postmodernism in therapy, which he says:

allows so much latitude and freshness 

Michael Hjerth, on the other hand, proposed a new kind of postmodern architecture, one that works like a "shortcut over the grass," ignoring prescribed walkways.

What does this have to do with the time of day in PMTH circles?

How our homes and offices are structured has the potential to affect us in dramatic ways.  Shaking yourself loose from tradition enough to envision your surroundings in different ways sounds postmodern to me.  Perhaps someday there will even be postmodern therapeutic architecture.

Now, I have really made Epp laugh.


This is a past issue of 
to visit the most recent issue 

Lynn Hoffman joins PMTH

PMTHers will be pleased to learn that they have been joined this week by Lynn Hoffman, a well known author in the field of family therapy.  Having talked with her privately since she has joined, I feel she is likely to enter into our conversations now and then.  I hope we manage to make her feel at home but also to lure her into a conversation about her ideas on family therapy.

And, if you haven't read Lynn Hoffman, you really should.  Her published writing is fun to read, sometimes delightful.

Her work also chronicles her ongoing study of her own changing beliefs about family therapy in a quite personal way.  For example, she has written about learning to do strategic therapy while secretly doing what she called "corny therapy."

Don't you wonder what "corny therapy" is?  Well, PMTHers, why don't you just ask her?  I plan to bring it up if you don't beat me to it.

John Morss & Lois Holzman

Notice a few brief comments by names John Morss  last week?  And a few others by Lois Holzman? Interesting to have them both posting at the same time.  Their posts slipped by each other without interaction, but Morss has some interesting things to say about Holzman in his book, (which reflects interesting things Holzman seems to have said about Morss' ideas at some prior time.)

You see, Morss is the author who radically rejects the notion of "development," while Holzman advances a distinctive notion of development -- and get this, Morss likes what Holzman says about development even though she and Newman make this a critical and positive term in their writing.  How can this be?

This puzzle is resolved only if we can explore what these two authors mean by the term "development".  It is true that Morss and Holzman have not often been around, especially at the same time, but Holzman has just finished her last book, and Morss seems to have a moment in his schedule, too.

Maybe, then, with your help, we can capture them on that topic.  Your assistance is requested.  Help me find out why Morss likes what Holzman says about development? 

PMTH Roundtable

Manfred Straehle is trying to arrange a roundtable of PMTHers in NYC.  If you live in New York or will be in NYC  in the near future, please contact him.  Click here to send mail

A New Magazine

A member of PMTH, John Söderlund,  is the editor of a brand new journal, New Therapist.  He was kind enough to send me an issue and I'll tell you a little about it. 

On the front is a drawing of Freud with a stern look on his face and a bubble over his head with the words 

Goot grief, all zis new stuff is driving me crazy!

Here is the first article that stares at you when you open the cover:

An Interview with 
Gianfranco Cecchin. 

The interviewer asks Cecchin, "You have lost some faith in the usefulness of diagnosis?"  Cecchin answers:

Oh, completely, now.  Diagnosis is only in the head of the therapist. 
Cecchin, p.7

He also says that we should not all do therapy the same way.  You'll have to read the article, though, to find out why.

I like what Cecchin  said about psychoanalysis:

Psychoanalysis became very useful as a source of stories.  It gave beautiful stories to make sense of what happens.  psychoanalysis became a problem when they began to believe what the stories were saying.

I'll let you read to see what he thinks of the art of deconstruction.

Then, there's an article on "The politics of survival in private practice"

A Book Review 

My interest was also captured by a book review Soderlund, himself, wrote on Michael White's new book, Narratives of Therapists Lives, published by Dulwich Centre Publications.  Mostly this is a quite positive review.  He says that this book is 

about as fresh and candid an attempt to look at the interests of therapists as has been offered of late.

 But it is also a balanced review.  Soderland says of White

He might also be accused of not reflecting concertedly enough on his own 'unexamined assumptions' about healthy and authentic ways of being in the world...

All in all, the magazine is a pleasant read, even inviting.  Still, it fell short for me in one particular way.  Many of its articles are practical articles for therapists practicing in South Africa.  Of course, being a fledgling South African publication, that is to be expected, but I hope the future editions contain more material of worldwide relevance, such as the Cecchin interview and the White review. 

Even so, there is something here to pique  the  interest of  nearly every therapist -- so I recommend it.  And if you want to know more, I suggest you click here to the edtior.

The issue I am quoting from is:
New Therapist 1, May/June 1999.

Incommensurate Discourses

Postmodern thinkers who have been influenced by Lyotard and Wittgenstein tend to see people speaking languages within a langauge.  In other words, everyone might be speaking English, but there are different langauges within English.  And different participants might be having difficulty communicating because they are actually speaking different languages and systematically misunderstanding each other.

The question is whether these different language games can be brought together or whether we are condemned to speaking past each other.

Today, I bring you a review by Tom Strong of a book that studies whether two particular languages (or discourses) can be successfully integrated; that is, whether the language of constructivism can be integrated with that social constructionism.

Read Strong's review to see if this text has something to offer postmoderns to assist our efforts to integrate languages -- but also to see whether constructivism and constructionism can be made compatible.


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