Systemic resonances and interferences in a (post) pandemic, climate change and migration context in Europe


Change of relationships:
The development of (family) relationships in the 21st century is characterized by diversifications of (family) forms, structures, and life cycles and, also, by socio-economic divergences and polarizations. We are confronted with increasing levels of inequality, poverty, health problems, massive changes in fertility and family structure, decreasing level of trust (social capital) and, as some social scientists are stating, the triumph of individualism over community. Corona crisis has worked in some ways like a magnifying glass, which has shown to us what are our social relationships. Are we fated to slide into ever-increasing levels of polarization between rich and poor, regularly and precariously employed, men and women, old and young, white and black or is there reason to expect that the disruption is merely a temporary condition and that societies will self-organize themselves? And if self-organizing could take place what form will it take? Are destructive dynamics exacerbating or aggravating under the (not so) new global conditions of pandemics, climate changes, and migration movements? What possible resources and new horizons emerge out of these global conditions regarding relationships? As systemic family therapists, we are experts for complex order-order-transitions and for working with systems immanent polarities.  

Change of tools, practices, and procedures:
As Peter Fonagy once stated: the new conflicts in counselling and therapy will no longer unfold between different psychotherapy schools – but between online and offline formats. We all experienced, at least because of pandemic related social-distancing and lockdowns, doing digital/ online counselling/ therapy/ supervision. We learnt about the pros and cons of these formats – and still do… we faced the challenges of doing online therapy not only with one patient but simultaneous with all family members – and some of us even with (little) children… and we tried, in approved systemic manner, not to fall in the trap of an either-or position, but to test an as-well-as approach: using a mix of online/digital/offline/blended formats. Even more: We are trying to support traumatized migrants, that don´t speak our language; we are working with young people, that suffer from some kind of “climate change depression”; we were faced with family violence and a perceived increase in mental illness in the context of the different lockdowns. How are our tools, practices and procedures changing e.g. referring to this?
Systemic therapists and counselors have much to offer. One of the gifts of therapy and counselling in time of increasing polarizations can be the reconsideration of our operations in terms of a Cartesian dualism of mind versus matter, individual versus society, personal versus political, intimate versus public, psychological versus social, God versus man, elite versus people, chosen race versus others, nation versus nation and man versus environment. 

Change of requests:
Yes, times have changed and the requests of clients as well. Many come with a (good, well-known, mild) mixture of anxiety, depression and somatoform disorders without a clear symptomatology, others are very perturbed but have learned to act adaptively – not seldom with the little help of the colorful world of old and new drugs and addictive behavior habits. The personality disorders organize and influence the symptoms while the traumas seem to have expanded. The problems brought to therapy seem to have widened while the social troubles are enmeshed with psychic ones and the clinicians need to open up to curiosity and flexibility.
The healing message of Systemic Therapy in particular and psychotherapy in general is that mental disease or psychopathology is the breaking down of communication between people and psychotherapy permits a development of communication and healing through communication. Most of the world’s troubles derive from a lack of intercommunication and cooperation. Psychotherapy should give an example, how the intercommunication and cooperation could be re-established by persuasion and not by force, because civilization began when communication through persuasion replaced brute force. Civilization constitutes itself through networks of conversations and language of persuasion.

Change of context:
we are not working any more within the security of the four walls of our office. Professionals leave their rooms in real and approach more wide contexts, they meet real situations of tragedy, working in refugee camps or with multiprofessional teams in the living rooms of their patients and families. Or they open the digital windows of their offices to the outer world, working with severe disturbed people without seeing them ever in real life. Many cooperate with the legal court for violence or adoption issues and custody decisions, and others work with community organizations dealing with social issues.