Using Action Methods in MFT Training


With few exceptions, MFT instruction in systemic thinking is predominantly didactic in technique. Didactic techniques are ones which convey conceptual information (“learning about”) and rely mainly on verbal presentation of information. By contrast, experiential techniques are learning experiences (“direct learning”) which may be accompanied by didactic techniques. Experiential techniques may consist of verbal tasks and exercises, including emotion- or imagery-evoking experiences. Watching videotapes may be classified as both experiential and didactic. Action methods are those experiential techniques that utilize physical movement and dramatic or metaphorical enactments (such as role-play, sculpting, therapeutic rituals, and theater games). Action methods are impactful and promote significant, lasting learning in relatively brief periods of time, making them particularly valuable. Moreover, many trainees do not easily acquire systemic experiencing and thinking from didactic instruction alone.

The presenter has been training MFT graduate student’s in a variety of settings since 1982 and has developed a unique set of action methods useful in teaching such concepts as triangulation, isomorphism, and the nature of systemic change. In this workshop, intended for both therapists-in-training and teachers of MFT, participants learn some of these methods by brief, voluntary exercises, interspersed by sharing, didactic instruction, and discussion. The workshop also addresses: (1) practical issues regarding the appropriate and ethical conditions under which action methods may be employed in training; and, (2) which uses of the self of the therapist-in-training are activated by action methods.