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Making the Expert Disappear – Collaborative Conversations as the Author of Change

Luuk L. Westerhof, MSc Master’s in health Promotion. Licensed clinical specialist in family therapy. Licensed Social worker. Licensed Supervisor. Supervisor at VID (Vitenskapelig Institute Diakonhjemmet, Oslo) for Master grads students i Family Therapy.Certified Addiction Counselor. Certified International Master Instructor. Certified International Family Specialist. Certified International Drug and Alcohol Interventionist. Lecturer and Public speaker. Svenn Erik Knutsen, Cand.polit. Cand.polit. psychology pedagogy and sociology. Family therapist. Worked for the Norwegian BUP (Child guidance clinic). Worked as a lecturer and supervisor at HIO – College in Østfold, Norway. Licensed Supervisor, Lecturer and Public speaker. Abstract Working together with people in therapy is an intricate meticulous collaborative process, and its outcome depends highly on how the client feels he can relate to the therapist: the therapeutic relationship, the therapist’s attitude, and the language emerging and applied between them. In the collaborative therapeutic processes there is no place for an expert or unilateral power or inequality. All meaning as the basis for change and knowledge in collaborative co-creative therapy is arrived at socially and languishingly, and changes are reached at through renewable moments of interaction. From this stance, more appropriate and expedient narratives and changes, surfacespontaneously during the conversation. This perspective represents a non-expert therapist position since changes occur spontaneously and not always planned. The collaborative conversation as a social activity of being together, walking-together, talking-together, co-creating-together, based on equality between therapist and client is thus more likely, the author of more appropriate and desirable outcomes. Keywords: expert, equality, inequality, collaborative, conversation, power.

Some Uncomfortable Thoughts Towards the “Now” How a therapist ought to approach and treat his clients is a theme that has been extensively discussed in both, literature and media. This is thus indeed an important issue to dwell on, since clients are entitled to, descend treatment. Being together in helpful ways raises the question; “How do we, as professionals chose to be together with our clients in ways helpful to them?” (Wifstad, 1994). This ought to be a pivotal question when working with clients in diverse contexts wherein we are assumed to be of help for the client. From this perspective it also will be expedient to look at some parts of the social - and psychiatric help system. James Davies (Davies, 2014) mentioned that psychiatry is an increasing specialty, which operates with an increase of diagnosis based on insufficient scientific evidence. In addition to the increased use of diagnosis, GP’s, and psychiatrist are requisitioning large amounts of pill’s to their clients/patients even though their therapeutic effect is very disputable (Davies, 2014, p. 16; Gøtzsche, Smith, & Rennie; Kinderman, 2014; Kinderman, Tai, British Psychological Society. Working Group on Psychological, & Well, 2009; B. Whitaker, 2002; Robert Whitaker, 2010; R. Whitaker & Cosgrove, 2015). The question arises:

Has the biomedical model which includes psychiatry become so domineering that other alternative approaches are silenced?” In his book Psychiatry Under the Influence: Institutional Corruption, Social Injury, and Prescriptions for Reform” (R. Whitaker& Cosgrove, 2015) Whitaker askes the question“Why do people suffer more if medicines have become better and better?” In his book “Deadly medicines and organized crime : how big pharma has corrupted healthcare” Peter Gøtzsche (Gøtzsche et al.) refers to Allen Frances (chair of the DSM-IV taskforce) who in his book “Saving Normal” (Frances, 2013) askes the question,“if there stillare normal peoplearound, since normalis losing all purchase?”, and that there is a diagnostic inflation which occurs as a public health and public policy dilemma that urgently needs solving (p.112). James Davies (Davies, 2014) is concerned with the question ‘why is psychiatry doing more harm than good?’ This is a valid question and should kindle our curiosity yet doing so seems to be associated with discomfort for many. Is it maybe therefore, that many professionals avoid self- examination on how they are meeting - and are together with people in the therapeutic context? Will this reluctance to self-examination have implications for the therapeutic process? Literature informs us that it has, and that the direction of a therapeutic process, in high degree, is determined by, and depended on, how the professional is choosing to position himself. The position of the professional will contribute to how and where the problem is placed. The position will also influence the professional’s attitude in relation to diagnosis, manual-based-approaches and how that contributes to the pathologizing of an individual. Our understanding is, that within the biomedical model, the professional as the expert assesses whatallegedly is wrong with a person.

Too, the professional expert, determines how, and by what approach(es) and technique(s), intervention should be executed. Intervention(s) based on measures that the expert qualifies as best suited for “reparation” of that which is qualified as dysfunctional.

I.e., here the expert is the one making the unilateral decision as to what is “right” or “wrong” evidence-based knowledge. Our culture is conditioned for this kind of thinking and approach. In the 1950tieswe were introduced to systems-theory1 where they found it more expedient to place the problem within the family as a system, and that the different proponents of the system interacted with one another:change in one part of the systemleads to, and perturbed otherparts of the system (Minuchin, 1965, 1982; Minuchin, Auerswald, King, & Rabinowitz, 1964; Minuchin & Montalvo, 1967). In the field of family therapy, we were introduced to the structural-model by Salvador Minuchin, while the strategic-model (Minuchin, 1982; Minuchin, Chamberlain, & Graubard, 1967; Minuchin & Fishman, 1979; Minuchin &Montalvo, 1967) wasintroduced by Jay Haley (Erickson & Haley, 1985a, 1985b, 1985c; Haley, 1973, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1986; Haley & Hoffman, 1968). These two approaches are considered as “strategic techniques.” In addition to the strategic and structural approaches, the Milano-model (Boscolo, 1987) emerged from the systems-model. Both the biomedical - and systems-model operate from an instrumental therapeutic position -the expert- and intervene differently into client’s life. In the last 30-years, new forms of therapy have emerged, and hopefully, with new possibilities for more expedient therapeutic outcomes? These new forms for therapy developed alternative ways in terminology and implementation to different approaches (H. Anderson & D. Gehart, 2007). In literature these new forms for doing therapy are featured as the philosophical postmodern paradigm (Anderson, 1997; H. Anderson, 2002; H. Anderson& D. R. Gehart, 2007;Davis & Gergen,1985; K. J. Gergen,1991, 1994b, 2015; K. J. Gergen & Davis, 1985; K. K. J. Gergen & ProQuest(Firm). 2001).

The postmodern paradigm is a critique on what was former, the modern paradigm, which is connected to and associated with, natural-science, positivism, the expert-paradigm, diagnosis, placing the problem within the person, and instrumental thinking and approach. The postmodern paradigm represents the opposite, uncertainty, we develop within the space between us in language,dialogue and relationship (Anderson, 1997; H. Anderson & D. R. Gehart, 2007; Harlene Anderson & Jensen, 2007b; Bayer, Shotter, & ProQuest (Firm). 1998; Campbell, Shotter, & ProQuest (Firm). 2000; K. J. Gergen, 2000, 2015; K. J. Gergen & Gergen, 2008; K. J. Gergen, Schrader, & Gergen, 2009; K. K. J. Gergen & ProQuest (Firm). 2001; McNamee & Gergen, 1999; Shotter & Shotter, 2008). From a postmodern perspective we don’t represent reality but co-create in dialogue and language a consented reality. Thus, reality is created and recreated when people exchange ideas, thoughts, feelings i.e., while they are conversing together in dialogue. The modern paradigm represents a “universe” approach, while the postmodern paradigm represents a “multivers” approach. This is why Anderson (Anderson, 1997) features the postmodern paradigm as a umbrella which fathoms theoretical, philosophical, and scientific positions that have a lot in common.

All knowledge is socially constructed. I.e., it is questionable how exact knowledge and scientific objectivity is generated. One of the pivotal issueswithin the postmodern paradigm is the question as to how dowe construct our narratives; how do we understand and interpret what is perceived as deviant behavior, and, how, can we work with processes of transformation in ways more congruent with the postmodern paradigm? The way we chose to understand the challenges in life, will affect the ways in which we are together with people, i.e. inviting people to more attractive and humane processes, rather than the approaches that esteem people as a diagnosis that must be treated by an expert. From the Expert Position Towards Equality in Collaborative Conversations When people approach a therapist for help they often assume that this professional is the expert and solution to their problems due to his knowledge and experience. Many therapists assume the role of an expert in power of their alleged knowledge and professional experience.

Too, it may be considered an epistemological2 error to assume an expert3 position in therapy. Assuming a unilateral expert position is infecting and permeating the professional - client system with a unilateral position of poweraccompanied by assertions on what is false and truth, andwhat is the “right” way to go.

Assuming an expert position will easily disturb the therapeutic process since it repeals the experience of equality which is a concept among other things, in philosophy, sociology, and psychology, based upon the notions of equal treatment, equal access to resources, and similar concepts. In practicing collaborative therapy, the professional should develop the desire to abandon the expert position.

“The expert knows more and more about less and less until he knows everything about nothing.” – Mahatma Gandhi Adam Galinsky at Northwestern University studied the relationship between power and the ability to perceive people’s perspective. He divided the participants into two groups, each group was asked to do something different before the experiment. One group performed exercises that made them feel powerful. The other group partook in activities that emphasized their lack of power. When they brought them into the experiment they realized that those who got a sense of power became less able to perceive someone else’s point of view. The conclusion of the study was that there is an inverse relationship between how much power peoplefeel and how open they are to see other’s perspective. Feelingpowerful can backfirebecause it distortsthe messages and signals that client’s send you, and that you need to pay attention to when attempting to understand them (Galinsky, Magee, Inesi, & Gruenfeld, 2006).

The value of equality is of major importance in collaborative therapy. Equality contributes to a sense of agency4 (H. Anderson & D. R. Gehart, 2007; Hauge & Mittelmark, 2003; Jensen & Anderson, 2008; McNamee & Gergen, 2013). For instance, many mental health advocates have pushed for equal treatment of people diagnosed with mental conditions, and this includes participation in treatment decisions as well as an end to discrimination against those with mental health conditions (Green, 2015; Green & Tones, 2011).

A professional assumingan expert positionis often biasedin such a way that it will have negative directive consequences for the therapeutic relationship and its outcomes. Thus, the therapeutic process will not become much more than a mirror, reflecting the professional’s values, orientations, and attitudes. The therapist’s perception of the problemwill domineer the relationship between the professional and the person seeking for help.

At a clinic where I (Luuk) worked, one colleague once said in a staff meeting “clients have to understand that we are the experts.”To me this sounded like this colleaguewas biased in the sense that she strongly adhered to one specific intervention model thereby excluding and pushing to the background, other alternative approaches (Andersen, 1990). Not being insistently and unceasingly curios is something Cecchin (1992) warned us against (Cecchin, Lane, Ray, Keeney, & ProQuest (Firm). 1992). Cecchin stated that we never should “fall” in love with our hypothesis etc., since that causes us to lose our curiosity as a prerequisite for the ability to get our eyes on the “undreamed” possibilities, but that we often don’t register due to a lack of curiosity (Hertz,2013). The lack of curiosity easily promotes prejudice. Curiosity is a pivotal prerequisite in the meaning-making process. Meaning-making as a social endeavor (Lock & Strong, 2010, 2012), a interpersonal linguistic activity, and a prerequisite for voluntary change (Bruner, 1990; K. J. Gergen, 1982, 1997, 2001a, 2009a, 2009b, 2015; K. J. Gergen & Davis, 1985; Therapy as social construction, 1996).

Thus, when we lose our curiosity, we lose the core prerequisite for change. At many occasions clients complained to me about my colleague’s demeanor and appearance which they felt was overbearing and condescending; they felt that he wasn’t sensitive and listening to them, just attempting to impose his own “thing” on them. Clients told me that they always felt inferior in his presence. Such an approach can be experienced as an abuse and an additional burden.

Often such scenarios are originated in relationships of inequality and can lead to a symptom of what often is referred to as “treatment-resistance.” Treatment-resistance is a phenomenon that easily occurs when a client feels that the professional is imposing his methods, techniques and ideas on him, not interestingly listening to what he really is saying, just to what the professional thinks he hears. In our optic thereis no such thing as treatment-resistance, just people resisting to be oppressed by biased ideas of what is right or wrong, good and bad therapy asserted by a professional. So, it isn’t a great idea to tell people what they allegedly need: people don’t like to be told what they need since they know themselves most of the time.

In a clinic for substance abuse – and addiction where I (Luuk) worked as a therapist, the unit- leadercame to my officeone day for a chat. He said that he had talkedwith one of the psychologists on the topic of relapse, and that he was elated concerning something he had learned in that conversation. The psychologist had said that she’d like to “keep-up” the severity of the problem when talking with a client. I was not at all elated by hearing this. Why? When we say that we “keep-up” the severity of the problem in front of a client, we then create an epistemological error in the sense that we assume that the client is not holding-up the severity of the problem himself: how can we know that….?

Due to many reasons, clients may struggle to express what they are striving with. People do not always find the words to describe the challenges they experience in life, since what they are struggling with is strange to them. This means that they sometimes can experience getting stuck with certain issues. Too, they can feel themselves stuck in what often is referred to as, the system. When that occurs, both the professional and client need to understand that no system is a material “thing” but rather a context for the creationof new narratives and realities. This context as a frame forsocial and linguistic construction between people (G. Bateson, 1973; M. C. Bateson, 2000; N. Bateson & Brubeck, 2016).

When the professional is together with a clientin a way that the client feels comfortable with, than, the experiences of “being-stuck-with” can evaporate in language and be substituted by new and more expedient narratives (Andersen, 1990; Anderson, 1997; H. Anderson & D. R. Gehart, 2007; N. Bateson & Brubeck, 2016; White, 2007; White & Epston, 1990).

From this stance we can embrace the notionthat we, beingin language, don’trepresent reality, but that reality is procedural assembled in language and social-interaction between the professional and client (Andersen, 1990; Anderson, 1997; H. Anderson, 2002; H. Anderson & D. R. Gehart, 2007; Harlene Anderson, Jensen, & ProQuest (Firm). 2007; G. Bateson, 1973; Campbell et al., 2000; K. J. Gergen, 2015; K. J. Gergen & Gergen, 2008; K. J. Gergen et al., 2009; K. K. J. Gergen & ProQuest (Firm). 2001; Lock & Strong, 2010, 2012; Shotter & Shotter, 2008).

Too, it may be expedient to keep in mind, that from a postmodern5 stance,reality is only reality to those that consent to it (Anderson, 1997; H. Anderson, 2002; H. Anderson & D. Gehart, 2007; Harlene Anderson& Jensen, 2007a; Goolishian & Anderson, 1992).Reality therefore is not static but dynamic. It is therefore of pivotal importance, that the professional hears what the client is saying, and not to what he thinks the clientis saying, as a prerequisite for understanding the clients perspective of reality, and for reaching more expedient therapeutic outcomes (Andersen, 1990; White, 2007; White & Epston, 1990). We like what Anderson is encouraging us to: We must allow ourselves as professional to be informed by the client (Anderson, 1997). This will be totallyimpossible if we don’t listento what is said, just sticking to what we think is said! In our professional practice we easily define and conclude, “the other”, before he even has told us his story: we draw too fast conclusions! What the other personis telling me, is not hisnarrative of life, just “the” story told just to me (Anderson, 1997).

We think that the professional must abstain from unilateral ‘steering’ tendencies in the therapeutic process. Steering is based on the notionof linear controland impairs hearingof what reallyis said. Once the professional, unilaterally attempts to steer the therapeutic process he becomesof little or no use for the client: his eagerness to steer will impair his ability to register which direction the client really wants to go. It’s an epistemological error, having the idea that a therapist unilaterally can steer the therapeutic process, and impose change. A professional will never be able to impose involuntary interpersonal or intrapsychological change on a client. Too, he will never be able to keep-up anything between him and the client unless the client agrees to it. The notion that an outer force (the therapist, the professional) can impose change on a person is totally false. Change is born within the bowels of meaning-making social-interaction and language betweenpeople (Bruner, 1990; Buber & Kaufmann, 1970; Burr, 2003; Horwitz & Buber, 1978; Lock & Strong, 2010). From this perspective, meaning-making is a social and performative linguistic activity. Change only occurs when the non-verbal and verbal interaction between people generate the necessary meaning as a prerequisite for change (G. Bateson, 1972; Bruner, 1990; Shotter & Shotter, 2008; White, 2007; White & Epston, 1990).

Too, it is an error to assume that a professional unilateral can keep-up the severity of a problem for a client. The epistemological question here will be; “How do you know that the client is not doing that himself?”

To assume that you, as a professional, are in a position of power whereinyou have the liberty to define if someone is doing something, yes or no, is a false assumption. Unless the client grants you permission to define unilaterally, your endeavor in keeping-up severity is worth nothing at all.

Activity within the therapeutic process must be practical applicable, anything else is of no use for the client. We argue that it will be much more expedient to ask the client, “is there anything that you prefer to (keep) focus on, today?” rather than entering the conversation with the unilateral thought of “keeping up” … something. It will be more likely to elicit expedient response when we ask the client questions like; “What do you want to talk about today?”; “What brought you here?”; “How do you like us to talk?”; “How do you want us to talk about “difficulties?” (Andersen, 1990; Andersen & Seikkula, 2005). We think that asking the client questions like these are more in congruence with the invitational nature of postmodern collaborative therapy (Anderson, 1997; H. Anderson & D. R. Gehart, 2007; Harlene Anderson et al., 2007).

Unilateral defining, something…the problem can be juxtaposed with the attemptto steer a process in a certain direction, something that is more in congruence with the instrumental modern paradigm. The effects of unilateral steeringmostly result in the client’sinter-subjective experience of disempowerment, a reinforced feeling of not being heard, not being treated as an equal. Most often, unilateral steering will result in a break-down in communication.

Now, the question can be asked, is it always wrong to steer the therapeutic process unilaterally? No! Some people want the professional to steer the therapeutic process.They feel more secure and comfortable with a professional as being the “expert.” This leads us to suggest that it is much more expedient to think “both-and” rather than the dichotomous “either-or” which obstructs curiosity as a prerequisite for generative processes (Hertz, 2013). It is when the professional abstains from dichotomous thinking, and embraces the “both-and” approach, that he will be able to get his eyes on the clients unuttered and undreamed potential (ibid).

When inequality entersthe therapeutic context,one person: the professional, will be at the top and one: the client, will be at the bottom thus creating a contextual environment totally unsuited for collaborative therapeutic practice and outcomes. A prerequisite for collaborative endeavors is among others, equality (Andersen, 1990; Anderson, 1997; H. Anderson, 2002; H. Anderson & D. R. Gehart, 2007; Harlene Andersonet al., 2007; McNamee & Gergen, 1999).

Equality as the prerequisite for walking-together-alongside (Campbell et al., 2000; Shotter & Shotter, 2008), constructing-together through language, new and more expedient narratives leading to more desired outcomes (H. Anderson & D. R. Gehart, 2007; White, 2007; White & Epston, 1990).

In collaborative therapy equality between client and professional is highly important, as a prerequisite for transformative processes. Any interpersonal transformative process is based on a relationship of equality. When people feel treated as equals they too, more likely, feel access to a multitude of opportunities (Antonovsky, 1979, 1987; Green, 2015). Too, equality combats stereotyping and prejudice in treatment avoiding constipation in the therapeutic collaborative process.

To the contrary,if a person does not feel treatedas an equal, the professional easily can contribute to depersonalization? When a person experiences himself depersonalized he feels himself separated or - and estranged from himself, his body, something which regularly occurswith people striving with mental disorders, e.g. schizophrenia. Many people describe the experience of depersonalization in the prodromal phase of schizophrenia (Therman et al., 2014).

Once I (Luuk) had a client who had commuted in the mental-health system for quite a while, without finding any alleviation for what she was striving with. In one of our conversations she suddenly said, “Why can’t any professional be like you?” When I asked what she meant by that, she answered; “Whenever I was in therapy, before, I never felt considered as an equal. I always felt inferior to the psychologist or therapist”. I asked her if the experience of not feeling equal had any effect on her as far as recovery and change was concerned? She replied by saying:

“Those times when I went to therapy I was striving with some mental issues. I had the hope that therapy would alleviate the symptoms, yet I felt much worse after each session, something that caused me to feel, more and more separated from myself in such a way that I often felt schizophrenic again.”

She said, that being in conversation with me was the first time she didn’t feel unequal and inferior. She came twice a week to collaborative talks, and after 8 months she said, that she had her life back on track. Sometimes I bump into her, and still she is doing fine. Working collaboratively is being together in ways that matter for the client. Yet, equality is a fundamental prerequisite for meeting together in ways that make a difference for the client (Andersen, 1990; K. J. Gergen & Gergen, 2008; K. J. Gergen & J. Gergen, 2013; K. J. Gergen & ProQuest (Firm). 2009; Seikkula & Arnkil, 2006; Shotter & Shotter, 2008). Collaborative therapy as an evolving process towards change Collaborative therapy is a conversational endeavor between people participating in social and linguistic activity, seeking for new possibilities and new ideas (Anderson, 1997; H. Anderson & D. R. Gehart, 2007; K. J. Gergen, 1994a, 2000, 2001b, 2015). Being together in conversational “talks” is thus dialogic in nature.

Meaning as the prerequisite for change, arrives procedural through dialogue and exchange of descriptions we ascribe to things. It is when we put language to our experiences, that hopes for change emerge, and we start to construct meaning and understanding. When we practice this within the therapeutic process, we than become collaborators with the client, constructing new and preferred meanings, understandings, and possible change. It lies within the context of collaborative conversations that change can emerge (Bruner, 1990). It is when narratives become repetitive or deadlocked that we won’t be able to advance withinthe therapeutic process. By asking new and more “fitting questions” we can contribute to unlock frozen narratives (Andersen, 1990). As therapists we often are going “too fast” in drawing conclusions and placing diagnosis: the problem within the person. People create understandings of problems through the language they use. Collaborative talks are a mutual generative process, wherein self-consciousness concerning one’s own position in life can emerge. Thus, collaborative talks contribute to the creation of new perspectives and possible change. From this vantagepoint, collaborative conversation aids the client and the professional to arrive at new and more expedient perspectives. New perspectives evolve from dialogue, the conversation, the space between movements in conversation (N. Bateson & Brubeck, 2016). When new perspectives arrive at the horizon, they will help both the professional, and the client, to move forward and foster hope for more desired and expedient outcomes. With the former in mind, collaborative conversations don’t offer just “one-way” of looking and understanding the challenges we face in life. You may have an opinion about a certain situation, but as a collaborative collaborator you should be concerned with opening for new understandings as the prerequisite for new meanings and change. Therefore, dialogue is pivotal in the collaborative process. Once the dialogue is eradicated from the therapeutic process, usefull understandings will fly out of the window, and measures will more likely be imposed unilaterally - by the therapist. With the the former in mind, we can appreciate the collaborative concept, as the context for the defining of a problem(s) and goals for change. Within the context of collaborative conversation, problems can gain new and preferred meanings through conversing about them. The notion that problems are fixed have no place within the context of collaborative therapy. We suggest that the collaborative conversation is the context for dissolving of problems. Neither is there no place for the idea that the professional, as the alleged “expert”, can solve the problem. When being in collaborative conversation, things evolve and dissolve- theyevaporate in dialogical conversation (Andersen, 1990; Anderson, 1997; H. Anderson & D. R. Gehart, 2007; N. Bateson & Brubeck, 2016; McNamee & Gergen, 1999). Collaborative conversation is thus a dynamic dissolving and solvingprocess. We are not againstadvice. Advice can be useful.But collaborative conversations and advice are not identical. Collaborative therapy offers the opportunity to contribute to our own expertise to conversations, open new meanings and possibilities and ultimately find our own ways of dealing with the issues in our life’s. Collaborative conversations as the context of limitless possibilities Many professionals within mental-health services, rehabs, family clinics etc., are trained and schooled in particular theories.T oo, it is expected of them to “diagnose” problems that fit them to these theories. Professionals as being the expert are considered as being qualified to know how to respond to different “types” of problems. However, assuming such anexpert approach neglects and violates the most exceptional aspects of collaborative therapy, namely, the collaborative conversation as the context and prerequisite for extra ordinary creative happenings. The modern paradigm is limited in its application within the collaborative context, since it traditionally is connected to the biomedical, reductionistic approach. It doesn’t consider the individual in interplay with his environment: context. Within the postmodern paradigm, identity is connected and constructed to a client’s domineering narrative. This means that for a professional to gain understanding and grasp the perspectives of the client, he must leave the reductionistic biomedical approach, and move on towards a position of…. curiosity. Cecchin exhort us to never “fall in love” with our hypothesis since they obstruct curiosity as a prerequisite for generative narratives: generative narratives as the aggregate for collaborative conversations as the author of change (Cecchin, Lane, Ray, & Wendel A.. 1994). Within the collaborative therapeutic context, multipleunderstandings can co-exist as a premise for new understandings and meanings that evolve through the exchange of language of ideas, something that can open-up for limitless possibilities. To the contrary, the expert as being the possessor of the “right” advice and knowledge is a one-sided endeavor and more in congruence with the biomedical modern paradigm. Collaborative conversations on the other hand, supplies us with the opportunity to experience and demonstrate the expertise we have in our own lives!

(1) The general definition of system (Greeksystema, a composite thing)is the ordered composition of (material or mental) elements unto a unified whole.The various fields of systems theory concentrate on differing aspects or perspectives of the elements and systems. Systems theory, like cybernetics, concerns itselfwith the functions and structural rules valid for all systems, irrespective of their material constitution. Systems theory is based on the insight that a system as a whole is qualitatively different, and “behaves” differently, from the sum of the system’s individual elements. Within the framework of family therapy, the application of the term “system” is identical to its application in the field of cybernetics. This concept takes account of system features like feedback, the processing and storage of information, adaptability, the ability for self-organization, and the development of strategies for the system’s own behavior (Simon,Stierlin, & Wynne,The Language of family Therapy– A Systemic Vocabulary and Sourcebook, 1985, p. 353. Family ProcessPress, New York).

(2) The study of epistemology, a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity.

(3) A person who has special skill or knowledge relating to a specific subject: having or showing special skill or knowledge because of what you have been taught or what you have experienced.

(4)The foundation of collaborative therapyis postmodernism, a philosophical approach advocating both a skeptical attitude toward knowledge and the belief that knowledge is a socially constructed concept, not a universal truth. There are two key concepts of postmodernism fundamental to collaborative therapy.The first is the idea that knowledgeis fluid, createdas language evolves,and thus the process of growth and learning happens through dialoguewith others. The second postmodern concept influencing collaborative therapy is the idea that multiple realities exist, so there is no singlecorrect way to see a situation. In collaborative therapy,the perspective of the personin therapy is considered equal to the therapist’s.

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