Contemporary Family Therapy

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 3–21 | Cite as

Teaching Family Systems Theory: A Developmental-Constructivist Perspective

  • Karen Caldwell
  • Chuck Claxton
Original Paper


Kegan’s (In over our heads: The mental demands of modern life, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1994) description of an “In Over Our Heads” phenomenon has much to offer those who engage in teaching family systems theory and therapy, particularly in relationship to the tensions involved in the potential mismatch between the developmental demands of the curriculum and the orders of consciousness that characterize students’ responses to the material. Kegan’s notion of the “holding environment” and Kolb’s (Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1984) theory of experiential learning are rich resources instructors can draw on to orient their teaching and curriculum more explicitly to supporting students on their developmental journey. In this article we provide examples of how to do that and also discuss the kinds of faculty development and changes in the program culture that are needed if “teaching for development” is to become more embedded in MFT programs.


Teaching family systems theory Family therapy training Developmental constructivism Organizational culture Systemic change 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human Development and Psychological CounselingAppalachian State UniversityBooneUSA
  2. 2.Department of Leadership and Educational StudiesAppalachian State UniversityBooneUSA

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