Mano_viola The Therapeutic Approach

The clinical and theoretical development of our institute is inspired by the systemic psychotherapeutic tradition of Gregory Bateson and the Palo Alto Group (Haley, Weakland, Watzlawick).


The idea of the "contextual subject", introduced to the human sciences by Bateson in the thirties, is what distinguishes this tradition. This concept of the person challenges a premise that until not so long ago remained unquestioned in western thought: that the real essence of a man is within himself and separate from the others. Bateson (1972) challenges this individualist premise to give substance to the thesis that mental processes are constructed through interaction. The human being does not only need others to live, grow and reproduce by but is neither capable of thought nor feeling when he is isolated. Emotions, like thoughts and mental structures are built through a dialogue of gestures and physical contact rather than words. The mind does not coincide with the brain: mental processes and knowledge develop through interaction and dialogue.Systemic psychotherapies were the first to place the contextual subject at the centre of their development and it is this idea, of the person in dialogue, that today still gives their particularity.


Our institute has taken up this idea of the person and tried to develop a systemic interpretation of subjectivity that places semantics first, we also avail of contributions from cognitive authors such as Kelly (1955) and Guidano (1987,1991). An important role in our interpretation of subjectivity is given to the concept of semantic polarities Ugazio(1998). This concept considers that "the conversations of a group with a history or background (e.g. the family, a group of friends, a group in a corporate context) are organized according to antagonistic meanings. And that the individuals have to position themselves within the semantic dimensions of their own relational context.However, in positioning themselves with respect to the relevant semantic dimensions of their group, each conversational partner anchors their own identity to those of the other group members. The various identities of members of a group, such as a family, therefore become interdependent. Semantic polarities along with emotions, feelings, explanatory structures, constructs and individual belief systems are central to our approach, which doesn't ignore the pragmatics of family interactions. Although privileging semantics, our model maintains an interest in action and its role in the therapeutic process. Because EIST approach pays a great deal of attention to subjectivity and the processes through which it develops, it is able to offer treatment either on an individual basis, or to couples or families. "Alternate treatments" are also availed of, for example, an individual itinerary could include a working phase with the family, during family therapy a deeper phase may be introduced for an individual member or alternatively in the therapy of a couple a working phase with their children may be added. Family therapy emblematically expresses some basic assumptions about the systemic approch: but our therapeutic approach does not identify itself exclusively with this kind of treatment. Who takes part in the therapy (the whole family, one of its sub-systems, the single individual) is a technical question dealt with at the consultation stage which always precedes the treatment proper.


Semantics are fundamental in understanding and studying mental disorders. Psychopathology, according to Guidano(1991) is a "science of meaning". Our therapeutic approach assumes that each main psychopathology is characterised by an organisation of specific meaning. Obsessive-compulsive disorders, phobias, depression, and eating disorders all develop within a family context marked by the presence of specific semantic polarities. As a consequence certain emotions are selectively present. The presence of specific semantic dimensions is a necessary but not wholly sufficient condition for establishing a particular psychopathological organisation. The development of the main psychopathologies depends, according to Ugazio (1998), on the particular position the individual and those near to him take in respect to the critical polarity. We are dealing here with a position that induces the individual to experience the conflicts and dilemmas typical of such disorders. In that each psychopathology presents specific semantic polarities and is characterised by particular emotions, ways of feeling and interpretation strategies, our approach offers a range of treatments designed for obsessive-compulsive, phobias, depression and eating disorders.

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