Sequences: Toward a Common Denominator of Family Therapy


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45 Scopus citations


This paper presents a conceptual framework that is designed to help clinicians and researchers organize their observations of the complex network of interconnected sequences of behavior and thinking that constitute family interactions. This framework distinguishes four classes of recursive sequences, each of which is defined by its period, i.e., the amount of time it takes for a sequence to complete one cycle. The shortest sequences (S1) are those face‐to‐face interaction patterns that range in length from seconds to an hour. S2 sequences are played out over one day to one week, often depending on the routines of the family. S3 sequences range from several weeks to a year, and S4 sequences are those patterns of interaction and thought that repeat from generation to generation. In addition to outlining this framework, the paper contends that in many families with a problem, pertinent sequences from each class may be related to the problem and to each other in a cybernetic manner. Suggestions are offered for identifying pertinent sequences from each class and for selecting interventions that best address the targeted sequence. We have found that this conceptual framework has enabled us to use techniques from many different schools of family therapy while avoiding the conceptual contradictions inherent in previous attempts to integrate approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-87
Number of pages21
JournalFamily process
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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