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Family systems therapy with deaf people and their families

(Thérapie familiale systémique avec les sourds et leurs familles)


12 / 1994

Family systems therapy has been a developing mode of psychotherapy for the past four decades and is now an accepted form of therapy within child and adult psychiatry and psychotherapy; within social work practice and within the field of family and marital counselling across the world. It can be described as an intervention designed to include all or several family members (and can be used with individuals)which can alleviate difficulties for families or individuals in a more immediate and lasting manner than professional interventions aimed at an individual and which define the problem as being solely within the individual.

Emotional, psychological, developmental, physical relationship difficulties occur in many forms within the population in general. Family systems therapy theory and techniques have been usefully applied to a wide range of families and relationships including those which contain one or more deaf people. Deafness does not, of itself, predispose individuals and families to such problems but neither will such families be immune from difficulties which affect the general population. For some families however deafness present in one or more members may pose particular problems. These have been identified as : the cultural collision experienced by mixed deaf and hearing families, linguistic communication, triangulation and scapegoating, loss and grief.

When family systems therapy is applied to families containing one or more deaf people, there are some specific features which practitioners have learned and which are essential to a beneficial, safe and antidiscriminatory practice. All members of the family/relationship should have equal acces to therapy. Therefore all written communications should be in a form which is compatible with the syntax of the sign language used by the deaf people involved. It can be useful to provide a signed and spoken videotape of information for the family along side written communications. Telephone communication which can be used by deaf people should also be available.

During therapy sessions attention should be paid to the communication methods used by all family members and appropriate sign language interpretation should be used to interpret between the therapist and the family and between the family members. Therapy should be conducted at a pace which ensures the full participation of the deaf people present. The interpreter should be properly trained and understand the basic principles of therapy. The therapist should be aware and sensitive to deaf culture.


communication, psychologie, famille, santé mentale

, Royaume-Uni, London


This paper points up the interest to use family systems therapy with deaf people and their families. A clinical example is given.


GESTES Groupe d’Etude Specialisé "Thérapies et Surdités"organised in Paris the ESMHD European Society for Mental Health and Deafnessthird international congress, on december 1994. The publication of the proceedings will occur later on.

Written from the speech of Barbara WARNER, CQSW Adv, diploma family therapy, Kingston and St Georges NH College of Health Studies and Springfield Hospital. Pathfinder, Springfield Hospital, 61 Glenburnie Road, London SW 17 7DJ, UNITED KINGDOM. Phone 00 44 081 672 9911 Fax 00 44 081 767 7608 Direct line 00 44 081 682 6195


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GESTES (Groupe d’Etudes Spécialisé Thérapies et Surdité) - 8 rue Michel Peter, 75013 Paris, FRANCE. Tel/Fax 00(331)43 31 25 00 - France - gestes (@)

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