Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

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

Perturbation in Couple and Family Therapy

  • Ruoxi ChenEmail author
  • Jason P. Austin
  • Jarodd W. Hundley
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_760

Name of Concept

Perturbation in Couple and Family Therapy


Perturbation is a hallmark of many foundational schools in couple and family therapy. Couple and family therapists commonly use perturbing interventions in their clinical practice to challenge and rebalance problematic couple and family dynamics.

Theoretical Framework

Grounded in cybernetic theory (Bateson 1972), perturbation leads to second-order change through a shift in rule systems, resulting in the resolution of the presenting problem(s). Perturbation is traditionally associated with strategic, Mental Research Institute (MRI), and Milan family therapy approaches. Strategic therapists often “perturb” family systems with paradoxical prescriptions and/or directives, by, for instance, assigning clients ordeal tasks related to but more severe than the problem they seek to change (Haley 1984). MRI therapists employ reframing or symptom prescription to interrupt clients’ problematic interactional sequences to force a...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruoxi Chen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jason P. Austin
    • 1
  • Jarodd W. Hundley
    • 1
  1. 1.Marriage and Family Therapy and Counseling StudiesUniversity of Louisiana at MonroeMonroeUSA

Section editors and affiliations

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