An Attempt to Epistemologically Ground Current Psychotherapy. Neither between nor within: on the eigenform and viability of human complex systems.

Simone Cheli

Abstract


In the last 15 years, psychotherapy has progressively faced with the ambition of reshaping foundative concepts and best practices. This trend seems to be coherent with the need for a theoretical integration psychotherapists are looking for, so as to epistemologically ground their discipline. From a constructivist perspective, two major biases seem to arise: (i) the paradox of seeking for a new framework through an old one (e.g. person-centered interventions within almost-reductionist models); (ii) the tendency not to question the superordinate assumptions of all the different topics (e.g. old-fashioned realism). The paper is mainly based on Heinz von Foerster’s eigenform, Ernst von Glasersfeld’s viability and Ludwig von Bertalanffy’s general systems model and on the interconnection of these concepts with modern and contemporary psychotherapy from a

The present paper is devoted to describe a tentative framework that may foster the convergence on a superordinate epistemology and so a theoretical integration of psychotherapy. I claim that second-order cybernetics and radical constructivism offer an effective methodology in advancing psychotherapy, and that in turn psychotherapy is trying to absorb a few assumptions of this methodology. I also claim that complex system point of view may support the overcoming of ineffective dichotomies between personal and social psychology, normality and psychopathology, and so promoting a superordinate comprehension of human experience.

I first analyze the intertwined paths of Foerster’s eigenform and Glasersfeld’s viability through the lens of modern psychology and general systems theory. Subsequently, I define a theoretical model aimed to integrate this analysis and epistemologically ground psychotherapy. Finally, I describe the implications of such a framework in identifying, interconnecting and applying relevant threads in clinical practice.

The concepts of eigenform and viability lead to a versatile methodology in anticipating constraints and possibilities of human experience. I describe five foundative processes mainly based on the contiguousness and continuousness of observing systems, and on the epistemological irreversibility of life. I interconnect these processes with five recurrent dimensions of clinical psychology. These dimensions are discussed and defined as three epistemological principles and two transformational principles:

1. Systemic Emergence: the first epistemological principle tries to argue that from a theoretical point of view a system is the comergence of its observing processes, and from a clinical point of view human actively pursue a viable pattern of self-organization.

2. Fluctuational Continuousness: the second epistemological principle tries to argue that from a theoretical point of view a system is always a node, a relation, and a network, and from a clinical point of view social experience is a self-organizing source of individuation.

3. Autopoietic Contiguousness: the third epistemological principle tries to argue that from a theoretical point of view a system is the entanglement of selfhood and otherness, and from a clinical point of view personal experience is a structurally coupled embodied action.

4. Constructive Irreversibility: the first transformational principle tries to argue that from a theoretical point of view observing processes are non-balanced and irreversible, and from a clinical point of view experiencing is a dissipative and irreversible process.

5. Constraining Imbrication: transformational principle tries to argue that from a theoretical point of view observing events are locally collapsed and context-dependent, and from a clinical point of view agency is defined by informational closure and punctuation.

 

The thesis contributes to the complex systems research programme, by demonstrating its effectiveness in fostering psychotherapeutic integration. Although this is not the first attempt in doing this, it extensively debates and integrates the most of the recent clinical advances.


Keywords


complex systems, eigenform, meta-cognition, third wave, viability

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