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DEFINITIONS

In elementary school education, there is a principle that in Grades 1 through 3 a child learns to read, and in Grades 4 through 6 a child reads to learn. In other words, literacy must precede the acquisition of ideas and their applications. This principle is especially true when it comes to learning about family therapy. Family therapists have a maddening habit of both coining new terms and using common terms in unique ways. This habit can sometimes leave neophytes to family therapy in a daze. So, the following family therapy terms are presented to enhance a counselor's understanding of the theoretical and applied discussions in this chapter and to add some new terms to a counselor 's professional vocabulary.

Centripetal and centrifugal: These terms were borrowed from physics to describe different relational styles in families. Centripetal families look inward to the family as the source of pleasure, joy, and satisfaction. As such, these families seek to maintain rigid boundaries and harmonious familial interaction. Centrifugal families look outside the family for pleasure, joy, and satisfaction. As such, familial boundaries and interactions are minimized (Beavers & Hampson, 1990).

Cybernetics: This term refers to the study of the processes that regulate systems, especially the control of information (Barker, 2003).

Dyad: This term denotes a two-person system (McGoldrick & Carter, 2001).

Family: This term applies to two or more people who consider themselves family. These persons generally share a common residence and assume the obligations, functions, and responsibilities generally essential to healthy family life, such as economic support (Barker, 2003).

Family boundaries: This term denotes the explicit and implicit rules within a family system that govern how family members are expected to relate to one another and to nonfamily members (Barker, 2003).

Family homeostasis: This term is used to describe a family system's tendency to maintain predictable interactional processes. When such processes are operating, the family system is said to be in equilibrium (Sauber, L'Abate, Weeks, & Buchanan, 1993).

Family projection process: This term refers to the transmission of a problem in a marital dyad to one of the children. Such a process helps maintain the illusion of a harmonious marital relationship. However, this process occurs at the expense of transmitting the symptoms of the problem to one of the children. Typically, this child is presented at the beginning of family therapy as the "problem to be fixed" (Sauber et al., 1993). Among family therapists, this child is called the "identified patient" or "IP."

Family system: A family system is a social system built by the repeated interaction of family members. These interactions establish patterns of how, when, and to whom family members relate (Sauber et al., 1993).

Family therapists: Family therapists practice family therapy either as a specialty within a profession (e.g., counseling, clinical psychology) or as a stand-alone profession (e.g., marriage and family therapy). Persons who practice family therapy usually possess at least a master's degree.

Family therapy: This is an umbrella term for therapeutic approaches in which the whole family is the unit of treatment. This term is theoretically neutral, because one can conduct family therapy using a variety of frameworks (Reber, 2002).

Feedback loop: This term identifies the process by which a system gets the information required to correct itself. This self-correction is exerted either to maintain a steady state (i.e., homeostasis) or to move toward a goal (Nichols & Schwartz, 2003). A system that receives negative feedback attempts to maintain a steady state. Positive feedback increases deviation from the steady state, enabling the family to evolve to a new state (N. J. Kaslow & Celano, 2005).

Holon: Koestler (1967) coined this term to name whole units nested in larger whole units, for example, the marital dyad in a nuclear family.

Marital dyad: This term denotes a relationship composed of a husband and wife (Sauber et al., 1993).

Nuclear family: The nuclear family is the kinship group that consists of a father, a mother, and their children (Barker, 2003).

• Triangulation: This term denotes the process of a third person or thing being added to a dyad to divert anxiety away from the relationship of the twosome (McGoldrick & Carter, 2001).

 
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