DOI: 10.1111/famp.12920 ISSN: 0014-7370

A 1.5‐Order Therapy: Between knowing and not‐knowing

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


This article is based on personal family therapist evolution of 30 years and how I have moved between first‐ and second‐order positions in how I work, challenge and make progress in the therapy room. With increasing confidence and experience, I have found myself in a position of “knowing” in therapy and of sharing the knowledge and beliefs I have with families, in a variety of ways. The first‐ and second‐order paradigms have many definitions (Anderson & Goolishian, Family Process, 27, 1988 and 371; Hoffman, Family System Medicine, 3, 1985 and 381) and mine concern the space between knowing and not‐knowing, between collaborative and directive therapy, and how to use these ideas in therapy. I explore aspects of this including ways of challenging, embedded questions, the move from questions to statements, and differences in responses. The essence throughout is that good therapy relies on good relationships, that skillful challenge is welcomed by families, detail is the enemy of therapeutic endeavor, and that embracing our expertise again can be a valuable asset in therapy. I contend that many experienced therapists follow similar practices but this is seldom talked about in the field.

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