HE.S.T.A.F.T.A. - Scientific Society of Mental Health Professionals


  • George VassiliouM.D. Director, The Athenian Institute of Anthropos

Invited Presentation at the International Conference on Systems & Family Therapy, Paris, October 4-6, 1990.

_Personal communication by George Vassiliou to Katia Charalabaki, 1991. A similar speech was delivered by G. Vassiliou at the International EFTA Congress in Athens, April 7-9, 1994.   _      Luiggi Boscolo, a distinguished colleague, told me yesterday evening that what he brought back to Italy from the Prague 1987 Congress, and he used for his Seminars, was the Diogenes story I had contributed there in one of my interventions. Thinking about it at night, I decided to incorporate it again in my condensed presentation highlighting our approach to Family Therapy at the Athenian Institute of Anthropos.

       One day Diogenes became obviously adventurous. He boarded a fishing boat to visit one of the neighboring islands. His trip proved to be fatal because pirates seized the boat and sold the passengers, among them Diogenes, as slaves in Corinth. The rich Corinthian who bought him as teacher to his son took him in his spacious house and started showing him the treasures, the mosaics, the expensive carpets, the chandeliers. Diogenes kept looking stoically for a while and suddenly turned around and spat his master on the face. The latter, shocked, asked Diogenes “why did you do such a thing?”. “Well,” he replied apologetically, “I had a need to spit, I looked around and I could not find a dirty place, your house is indeed magnificent”.

      The Diogenian message, which has survived for so many centuries now, became a catalyst for us. With processes accelerating in the field of Family Therapy, we have little doubt that therapeutic techniques will be further developed and modified, research methods will be refined. However, in the midst of this hopeful outlook, the above message of Diogenes keeps returning to our mind. It is something that obliges us to narrow the focus on us and ask ourselves a tantalizing question: our field will keep developing, but what about us, Family Therapists? We follow a Dialectic-Systemic approach [1]. Dialectic, as it follows the dialectics of the Living Process, and Systemic, as it considers Anthropos and his Supra-System, the Family, as a living System, with opening/closing boundaries, anotropic, information-processing, problem-solving, decision-making, boundary-structuring (self-regulating, self-describing, self-dissolving boundaries).

         These systems are the outcome of processes which, interdependent and interrelated, transact in mutual, simultaneous alteration within their boundaries. Biological, psychosocial, sociocultural and economicosocial processes reaching increasing differentiation, transact and enable the total system to accomplish Individuation. All family members, transacting within Family boundaries, enable their suprasystem, their family, to achieve increasing differentiation itself.

          Consistent with the above, we attribute paramount importance to the Individuation of the members of the therapeutic team. This will enable them to keep spiralling to levels of increasing differentiation, providing in this way to the families which come for assistance and guidance, a supportive, educative context.
We use primarily analogic communication [3],[4], since in this way the therapist secures:
a) The emergence of the vital communication he needs to understand the prevailing patterning of the family’s interactions.
b) The creation of opportunities for self-understanding for family members along the lines of the symbolic (in this way they are enabled to proceed and reach what is afforded and wanted).
c) The possibility to offer to the Family opportunities to rearrange its interactions most operationally, preserving in this way patterning in flowing and the flowing in patterning, (the fleiss-gleichgewicht). Obviously we follow the Autonomy paradigm, in whose development we contributed when working within the GST Task Force of the AGPA [2] in the 70s.


[1]. George A. Vassiliou and Vasso G. Vassiliou: Outlining a Systemic-Dialectic Approach to Family Functioning and Malfunctioning,  _The Individual and the Group, _ ed. by N. Pine and L. Rafaelsen, Plenum Press, New York, 1982.

[2]. James Durkin:  Living Systems,  Brunner/Mazel, New York, 1981.

[3]. George A. Vassiliou, M.D.: Analogic Communication as a Means of Joining the Family Systems in Therapy,  _The International Journal of Family Psychiatry, _ Vol. 4, No. 3, 1983.

[4]. George A. Vassiliou, M.D. and Vasso Vassiliou, Ph.D.: Analogic Communication in Generating and Developing Family Therapy,  _Terapia Familiare Communicaria, _ Cad. 3, 1983.

Read the next article:

ARTICLE 3/ ISSUE 2, April 2013

Dealing with the Crisis: Actualizing the Power of The Group

George Gournas, Psychiatrist, Group and Family Therapist. Athenian Institute of Anthropos
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