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Chiesa, M. (1988). Psychodynamic and systemic approaches: Some areas of convergence. Free Associations, 1O(14):62-78.

(1988). Free Associations, 1O(14):62-78

Psychodynamic and systemic approaches: Some areas of convergence

Marco Chiesa

Psychodynamic and systemic principles and practices have been, in my opinion, the most significant developments in the field of psychotherapy in the last decades. The two schools of thought have followed separate lines: psychoanalysis and its related disciplines have developed out of the pioneering work of its founder, Sigmund Freud, while more recently the Palo Alto group, led by Gregory Bateson, researched the pathological communicational patterns in families of schizophrenic patients and paved the way for a conceptualization of mental disorders as logical adaptations to pathogenic and illogical interpersonal systems (Watzlawick et al., 1967; Selvini-Palazzoli, 1974). The focus of research has been the individual intrapsychic world for the psychoanalyst, and the social context of the individual (the family) for the family therapist. The advocates of psychoanalytic psychotherapy and systemic family therapy have maintained a distance from one another, and while most of the overt criticisms have come from the family therapy movement, orthodox psychoanalysts, on the whole, have continued to ignore the important implications present in systems theory and in cybernetics. Recently there have been some attempts to look at the similarities and areas of overlap between the two disciplines, and at ways to bridge the gap which, often artificially, has divided them. The aim is to start a useful and enriching cross-fertilization, while at the same time maintaining separateness and autonomy between the two approaches (Arden, 1984; Holmes, 1985).

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