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

Prof Doc Thesis

Hickman, Susan Mary 2013. Shared understandings? The interface between systemic psychotherapists and the family courts. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust
AuthorsHickman, Susan Mary
TypeProf Doc Thesis

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.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Publication dates
Print16 Dec 2013
Publication process dates
Deposited16 Feb 2015
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