COLLABORATIVE LANGUAGE SYSTEMS
THEORISTS: HARLENE ANDERSON AND HARRY GOOLISHIAN
Lynn Hoffman, Tom Andersen, Ken Gergen, Sheila McNamee, and John Shotter
Proponents of the collaborative language systems model consider language and communication to be its central elements. The therapist and client work collaboratively to explore and mutually arrive at new understanding of the client’s presenting problem. The therapist meets the client with a “not knowing” stance, allowing the client to be the expert in his/her own reality. Collaborative therapists believe that each person who discusses the problem is part of the problem-generating system and that each individual maintains a unique perspective of the problem. The collaborative language theory asserts that problems are maintained in language, so once there is new meaning attributed to the problem, the problem will be dissolved, and the system organized around it will also dissolve. This new meaning of the problem is constructed in therapy through narratives during therapeutic dialogue.
- The collaborative approach does not propose or advocate any theory-defined or therapist-defined goals for clients (except to encourage therapeutic dialogue that promotes new ideas, meaning, and possibilities)
- Reflecting teams
- A technique developed by Tom Andersen where a group of about 4-7 therapists observe the therapy session (typically from behind a one-way mirror) and then have a conversation in front of the clients about what they noticed during the session. In other words, clients are permitted to observe the team of therapists as they discuss the case.
- Reflecting teams are used to promote new ideas by offering multiple perspectives about the problem(s) presented by the clients.
- Not knowing
- The stance of the therapist is non-directive and non-expert, placing the client in the role of the expert. The therapist expresses genuine curiosity, and interacts with the client as a “partner.”
- C Therapy
- A term coined by Tom Andersen, it represents connecting, collaborating, and constructing.
- Therapeutic Impasse
- Occurs when dialogue breaks down and becomes a monologue.
ASSESSMENT AND TREATMENT
- Therapist takes a not-knowing approach
- Conversational questions, interactions, and therapeutic dialogue are the main techniques
- New meanings are created through conversation
- Normative assessments are not applied
- Termination is collaboratively and mutually determined
STANCE OF THE THERAPIST
- Honoring client’s realities
- Each client’s experience is subjective and linguistically constructed
- Not-knowing and Curiosity
- Clients are the experts of their own experiences
- Responsive and Compassionate
- Co-explorer/learner (Client is “teacher”)
- No diagnosis, hypothesis or directives, as these would potentially affect the interaction and outcome of therapy