Shared understandings? The interface between systemic psychotherapists and the family courts

Hickman, Susan Mary (2014) Shared understandings? The interface between systemic psychotherapists and the family courts. DSysPsych thesis, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. Full text available

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This qualitative research set out to explore how far understanding is shared between systemic psychotherapists who write expert reports for family courts and the judges who receive them, with particular reference to various concepts involved in the process such as truth, objectivity and expertise itself. Data obtained from semi-structured interviews with systemic “experts” and family judges was analysed using Grounded Theory. In response to ideas emerging from initial interviews, the focus broadened to consider how, despite the potential advantages of a relational approach to this working context, the possibility of these benefits being delivered by the involvement of systemic psychotherapists remained “invisible” to judges. Different beliefs were identified around the idea of being able to assess openness to change without actually introducing change. The complexity of cases and the responsibility of making hugely significant decisions about children and families were seen to require family judges to be more “interventive” than judges in other areas of law, and systemic experts to be more “certain” than in other contexts. The values, beliefs and sources of knowledge which inform the ways in which experts and judges reconcile those challenges and tensions within the context of a rapidly changing family justice system were compared. Some ideas were generated both about ways of supporting and enhancing these professional roles, and about implications for practice.

Item Type: Thesis (DSysPsych)
Additional Information: Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment to the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust and the University of East London for the Professional Doctorate in Systemic Psychotherapy
Uncontrolled Keywords: Professional Doctorate in Systemic Psychotherapy, Grounded Theory, Professional Networks
Subjects: Families > Family Courts
Families > Family Law
Psychological Therapies, Psychiatry, Counselling > Family Therapies
Research, Tests, Assessments > Grounded Theory
Psychological Therapies, Psychiatry, Counselling > Systemic Psychotherapy
Department/People: Children, Young Adult and Family Services

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