Systemic Questioning

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Interview Project: Interviewing Styles: Learning to Think Like a MFT COUN 5220 Introduction to Marriage and Family Therapy
February 19, 2012

Abstract

Creating trust in the helping relationship is one of the fundamentals of family therapy. Not only must the family learn to trust the counselor, but also the counselor must trust that the family is there willingly to receive help and to learn how to set their own goals and access their own resources to achieve them. Rather than being a passive listening post, a counselor must strive to actively listen and must keep an active engaging mind to compare what each family member is revealing. Clients in turn use the process to try to make sense of their experience. Communication is key in counseling. Family therapy has developed several approaches to framing questions within family meetings, questions are the primary tool clinicians use to learn about the family’s experiences. These questions help gather important information about various issues. Several authors in the MFT field have described and categorized questions (circular, reflexive, and narrative). There are two types of information gathering and orienting questions, one based on linear assumptions and the other based on circular assumptions. This paper will discuss how each style of questioning affects the family therapy process.

Counseling 5220 is a course, which provides students the foundation of the MFT field of study. This project is to prepare and aide students learn the various methods of questions used to illicit information from clients for the purpose of providing quality treatment to the family. The project provides a foundation and gives the student a chance to really learn systemic and linear questions.

Question Development

The questions I choose to ask my interview partner were questions pertaining to morals, beliefs and background. As a student, taking an online course, I often wonder why my peers decided on the MFT field. My interview partner was very comfortable about providing background info and answering the questions I drafted. Various kinds of hypothetical questions lead to an opening up of hypothetical context and alternative possibilities. Beutler & Williams, 1993 argue that systemic questions should be circular and relational. Future oriented questions; reflexive questions and "miracle" questions amongst others have all evolved as therapeutic tactics.

Linear Questions
I opted for 6 linear questions to ask my partner; three of the questions were closed and 3 were open-ended questions. According to Tomm, 1988 linear questions are asked to orient the therapist to the client's situation and are based on lineal assumptions about the nature of mental phenomena. The therapist acts almost as a detective; trying to find out the who, what, when, where and why. These questions orientate the therapist to the client’s situation. Linear questions often identify individual characteristics or events. Circular questions often explore relationships or differences. Tomm (1981, p. 85) states that linear patterns are limited to sequences. Linear questions are one-to-one questions used when history or specific information is desired. They generally take the form of a direct, open-ended question to an individual, who is asked to give his or her account of the story. These questions have an investigative intent. As an interviewer I wanted to gather some background data on the interviewee. I was interested in finding out what in her background contributed to her decision to enter into the MFT field. After reflecting on the interview, I should have asked the maximum number of questions, I was still left wanting to more about my interview partner. Systemic Questions

I opted to ask my partner 6 systemic questions that were a mixture of circular and reflective. These questions were all open-ended and really allowed me to get to know my partner. The circular interview...
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