Fds the symptom is not a sign but a means to an end
Functional Dialectic System
(FDS) Approach to Therapy:
The symptom id not a sign but
a means to an end
Prof. Moshe Almagor Tikotzki
Department of Psychology
University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
Almagor, M. (2011). Functional Dialectic System
Approach to Therapy with Individuals, couples, and
Families. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota
Almagor, M., & Ben-Porath, D. D. (2013). Functional
dialectic system (FDS) treatment: Integrating family
system theory with dialectic thinking. Journal of
Psychotherapy Integration, 23, 397-
FDS is a short-term, relationship-based, solution
focused approach to therapy.
FDS is an approach founded on a system-dialectic
view of the world.
FDS postulates that:
A. A person lives and function within a social system.
B. Behavior is goal directed and functional.
FDS helps the person regain control over disabling
life situations and represents an optimistic view of
The social context -
A person lives and functions in a
The social context provides the
individual’s basic needs for safety,
order, belongingness and identity.
The individual is prepared to pay a
price for the provision of these
A system consists of two basic elements:
Structure – Relatively static and stable.
Developmental process and goal (Dialectics and
functionality) – Dynamic.
The Structure of the System
The System is more important then its
Emotional distance regulating
How the system protects
and preserves itself?
development - Dialectics
In FDS, the process and development of the system is
based on western dialectics (as opposed to the
eastern, Zen Buddhism).
The whole consists of opposites
There is a tension between the
opposites (thesis and antithesis).
This conflict is inevitable,
inherent and essential. It is not
learned or acquired. It cannot
and need not be resolved.
The tension necessitates a
resolution (a synthesis). The new
position creates a new dialectic.
The change is ideographical and
Change is constant and no-
change is impossible.
Robert Wilson (2002) claims that our development is
powered by the selfish-altruistic dialectics. There is a
within-group conflict (in favor of egotism) and
between-group conflict (in favor of altruism). The
dynamic of this conflict explains the way we are. This
conflict is ever present, unchanging).
Carl Marx and the materialistic dialectics argues that
social classes and the conflict between them is ever
present, leading inevitably to struggle and revolution.
development - Dialectics
Structure and process are
Individuation – Union
Routine – Excitement
Control – Loss of control
Childhood - Maturity
development - Dialectics
Dialectics is not only a philosophy, but
also a method (Socrates):
Look for the opposite.
Look for the different.
Look for what is not there.
Behavior is Functional
Behavior is meaningful in light of the basic
Behavior is functional in light of the basic
Abnormal behavior is, thus, is both functional
It’s functional meaning is uncovered
The problem is the solution!!
The problem represents the best coping
strategy the client uses under the
The symptom is a communication means:
It tells us about the status of the client
It sends a message internally and externally
It represents the solution, not the problem
It is the best coping alternative available to the client
under the circumstances
It is a sign for an underlying problem; most of the time it
involves other people
It can take the form of a psychiatric, psychological,
Its origin may be genetic, traumatic, learned, or
acquired, but is likely to have an emotional overlay
Anxiety is about fear of loss of
control. The anxious person
controls life through the
Depression is about , weakness,
helplessness, withdrawal and loss
of interest . The depressed
person may attracts help and
the weakness represents power.
Loss of control and Control
Weakness and Strength
(Mood Disorders, Family problems)
Anger and Caring
Closeness and Distance
(Intimacy, Emotional distance regulating mechanisms))
Dominance and submission -
winning and losing - belonging
Structure and Development
Structure and development
are dialectic; Stability and
Growth and Development;
Stability vs. Excitement.
FDS relates to both functional and
dysfunctional aspects of behavior.
Seeing both aspects of behavior
reduces the stressful and
pathological aspects of it.
Joining is crucial for FDS to used
FDS is a highly optimistic approach
based on love and respect for the
client and his/her suffering.
Stages in Therapy
Problem definition and re-definition
Elaboration and problem solving
Exploration of the newly defined problem.
Devising ways of dealing with the problem.
Working through the problem.
FDS: An exercise
The goal of the exercise is to train in dialectical-
Remember that a dialectic pole is subjective and is
In this exercise you will be given pathological terms
and concepts and your role is to look for their
functional dialectic meaning.
Anxiety, Depression, Obsession, Jealousy, Fights