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Family systems training in the public sector: An analysis of the effects of systemic training on mental health professionals

Sergio Pirrotta, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This study investigated the effects of a family systems training program on the trainees and their work sites after training. The program evaluated was the Lawrence Family Systems Training Program which operates within the public mental health system in Lawrence, Massachusetts and is modeled after a Milan model of systemic therapy. A questionnaire was distributed to 40 trainees out of which a respondent sample of 22 was obtained. Follow-up telephone interviews were conducted with a supervisor and a colleague of the trainee at each of four work sites to elicit information about the effects of the training on the work context. The Results indicated that, contrary to the predictions in the literature, context disturbing effects were reported in only 2 of 22 cases, whereas 14 of 22 reported some degree of context enhancing effects, as rated by the study's raters. Those effects were corroborated by the interviews with colleagues and supervisors. In addition, 14 of 22 respondents utilized what were termed Reflexive Strategies which were defined as those which evidenced that the trainee had applied a second order cybernetic model of self-in-context awareness in analyzing their interactions with their work sites. The study found a correlation between the trainee's use of these strategies and the degree to which the training was incorporated into the work site in a context enhancing manner. A cybernetic model for training and the evaluation of training was suggested which could be isomorphically consistent with the second order cybernetic approach to the analysis of human systems utilized by the Milan Associates and other systemic theorists. Suggestions for future research on the effects of training on the mental health system were offered.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Academic guidance counseling

Recommended Citation

Pirrotta, Sergio, "Family systems training in the public sector: An analysis of the effects of systemic training on mental health professionals" (1987). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI8805963.