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The Answer Within

A family in therapy re-examined

The Answer Within by Moshe Lang
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I vividly recall the frustration of reading about psychotherapy and finding the writing abstract and vague. I kept wanting to know what the therapist said, what the patients said, what was actually happening. There was so little detail of this kind available at the time that I was once provoked to remark, ‘There are only two things in life we are supposed to do without any prior observations: sex and psychotherapy’ (Lang, 1981). How things have changed! In 1970 I was introduced to family therapy, a new and radical way of conceptualising human problems which offered an effective method of resolving many of them (Lang, 1987, 1995). It was a kinder way of understanding human suffering, because it placed the explanation for a person’s pain in the social domain, in the interactions between individuals and those around them. Before, psychotherapists tended to look for the cause within the individual, which often led to victims being blamed for their own pain. My excitement about this new approach was augmented by the way family therapy offered transcripts and videotapes of therapy, making it possible, at last, to see what was really happening. When I taught family therapy my students told me how disappointed they were with their own work after seeing videotapes of American family therapists resolving all kinds of problems almost instantaneously and with the greatest of ease. It was never so quick and easy for my students, and their results were not nearly as satisfying. I wanted to show them that for me, too, working with families was a struggle. I was videotaping my work with the Black family at the time and thought that what was actually happening in our sessions would be an excellent way to illustrate how difficult therapy can be. I asked the family’s permission to show the videotape to my students and, to my surprise, they agreed. I also presented the tape to professional audiences and a lot of interest in my work with the Black family was generated. The more I viewed the tape, the more absorbed I became. I eventually asked Peter McCallum if he would be interested in writing articles based on the full transcript for the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy. This led to the publication of a series of articles describing all five sessions, and these were later republished by McPhee Gribble as a book. Hilary McPhee observed, ‘Most authors hope that their book will become a TV show or a movie one day. A Family in Therapy is the opposite — it is TV made into a book.’ It was the first time a full transcript of everything said and done in therapy had been available to the general public. The commentary on the therapy allowed readers to assess the validity of our conclusions for themselves. The book was favourably reviewed and became a standard text in training programs. I was delighted that ACER agreed to make A Family in Therapy available again. I looked forward to re-examining the therapy that took place twenty-five years ago.
Australian Council for Educational Research; Read online
Title: The Answer Within
Author: Moshe Lang; Peter McCallum

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