Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

2019 Edition
| Editors: Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Second-Order Change in Couple and Family Therapy

  • Rachael A. DansbyEmail author
  • Jason B. Whiting
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_307

Name of Concept

Second-Order Change


Change of change; Meta-change; Trait change


In the 1950s and 1960s, the Mental Research Institute (MRI) in Palo Alto, California, hosted a variety of professionals from multiple disciplines, including human communication research, psychiatry, and anthropology. This was before “couple, marriage, and family therapy” was a distinct discipline. Several original members of the MRI team shared their understandings of change, specifically second-order change, with the broader community of helping professionals in 1974, through their book, Change: Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution. There, they describe second-order change in relation to another type of change, first-order change.

Theoretical Context for Second-Order Change

According to group theory, which is a theory of relationships between elements and wholes, the first type of change (i.e., first-order/state change) happens within a group, where afterward, the...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Texas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA
  2. 2.Brigham Young UniversityProvoUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Eli Karam
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA