First-Order Change in Family Systems Theory
Name of Concept
First-order change in family systems theory
First-order change refers to a change within a system (i.e., couple or family) consistent with the rules governing that system. In couple and family therapy, a first-order change results in the maintenance of the status quo or family homeostasis (Watzlawick et al. 1974).
Theoretical Context for the Concept
First-order change is one level in a two-level theory of change proposed by Watzlawick et al. (1974). This concept of change is fundamental to the MRI brief therapy approach (Fisch et al. 1982) and characterizes how problems are created and maintained in family systems governed by rules. Rooted in family systems theory (Keeney and Ross 1983a), first-order change can best be characterized as a cybernetic explanation of how systems stabilize. The cybernetic complementarity of stability/change implores us to help systems stabilize how they change and change how they stabilize by “prescribing both stability and...