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Course Description

How do families interface with larger systems and how to intervene collaboratively? Systemic therapists are increasingly dedicated to innovative clinical work in non-traditional areas as they respond to changing demographics and diverse communities. Their clinical and consulting practices are often located where families and communities live, learn, work, and heal. Relationally trained practitioners contribute to collaborative and interdisciplinary team-focus projects in the mental health, education, health, legal, and business fields, among others. Similarly, scholars and researchers are developing culturally responsive specific models like outreach family therapy, collaborative health care, multi-systemic school interventions, social justice oriented and spirituality approaches, organizational coaching and consulting, among others. This course explores these developments and aims at developing a clinical and consulting knowledge that contributes to families, organizations, and communities within a collaborative and social justice vision. Students reflect on questions like: How do individuals and families interact with larger systems and how do larger systems structure the lives of individuals and families? How does a relational practice contribute to equality and social justice? How does a clinical practitioner partners with other professionals and clients in collaborative endeavors? How does a systemic practitioner assess and intervene in urban contexts and develop new areas of practice that involve organizations and communities?
This is a required course for Family Therapy students and an elective for School Counseling and Mental Health students.

Course Objectives

  • Using relational, systemic, and organizational frameworks, students will develop a commitment and a working understanding of how to engage collaboratively with large systems that have an impact on persons, families, and communities.
  • Students will understand evolving trends in the systemic therapy field and other areas of knowledge that support working in contexts where family and community diversity are significant dimensions.
  • Making extensive use of cutting edge internet and educational technology to gather information and to share it with others, students will assess and identify relevant resources that are available for professionals, families, and organization.
  • Students will reflect and analyze in detail how large systems and institutional trends frame the lives of families and recognize the skills needed to act in a caring stance to foster systemic change.
  • Students will acquire skills to intervene as caring and reflexive practitioner who is committed to collaborative change in families’ communities, health, and educational settings.


Eight required counseling courses including COU 614 and COU 622 or permission by instructor.

Required Textbooks

Madsen, W. (2007). Collaborative therapy with multi-stressed families: from old problems to new futures. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

McDaniel, S. H., Hepworth, J., & Doherty, W. J. (Eds.). (1997). The shared experience of illness: Stories of patients, families, and their therapists. New York: Basic Books.

Walsh, F. (Ed.). (1999). Spiritual resources in family therapy. New York: The Guilford Press.

Zehr, H. (2002). Little Book of Restorative Justice. Intercourse, PA: Good Books. (Order online: $4.95)

Pennell, J. (no date). Mainstreaming family group conferencing: building and sustaining partnerships. International Institute for Restorative Practices.

Umbreit, M.S. (2000). Family group conferencing: Implications for crime victims. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime. (

Venables, M. (2000). Restoration versus alienation : family group conferencing from the perspectives of victims. Doctoral Dissertation: Griffith University School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. (Download at:

Other Reading

  • Burford, G., & Hudson, J. (Eds.). (2000). Family group conferencing: New directions in community centered child & family practice. New York, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.
  • Cameron, K.S., Dutton, J.E., & Quinn, R.E. (2003). Positive organizational scholarship. Foundations of a new discipline. San Francisco, CA: Berrer-Koehler.


Component Percentage

Weekly Threaded Discussions and Synchronous Discussions 20%
A Personal/Familial Reflection (Health, Illness, and the Larger Systems) 10%
Conceptual Presentation 15%
Reflexive Reading Report 10%
Project Outline 5%
Project Presentation 10%
Final paper 25%
Self Evaluation 5%



View Complete Syllabus

Copyright ©2008 Gonzalo Bacigalupe, Ed.D