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Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center 
The Systemic 
Psychotherapy 
between 
Science and 
Intuition
in this presentation I return – with several modifications -to 
issues I already treated and aslo recently 
this new version has been prepared for the Conference 
“The Anatomy of (un)reason” held in Krakòw, Poland, 
October 10 – 12° 2014. 
the presentation has to be followed by Massimo Giuliani’s 
presentation “Beyond Medicine – Beyond Psychology – 
Beyond Post-Modernism: The Milan Approach to Systemic 
Psychotherapy” 
http://prezi.com/2lgk1ozulcx7/the-milan-approach-to-systemic-psychotherapy/ 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center
the aim of this presentation is to contribute to answer to a 
question that psychotherapists conforming to different 
schools of thought know very well 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center
“what am I REALLY doing 
when I lead a therapy session?” 
despite therapists may try to remain faithful to their 
refernce theories and to the narratives by which they 
describe their approach to psychotherapy, there is 
always a gap between what they actually do and waht 
they tell that they do – included the theoretical 
explanations and modelizations of what they do 
my claim is that this is an unavoidable and even positive 
phenomenon 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center
in trying to answer to the question I’ll draw from my own 
experience as a Systemic Psychotherapist and a Teacher 
of the so called “Milan Approach” to Systemic 
Psychotherapy 
in other words, I will not proceed from a generic or 
“neutral” point of view 
in the meantime I assume that the conclusions I will reach 
can be shared, in many cases, with professionals 
conforming to different theoretical frames 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center
the main features and basic assumptions of the “Milan 
Approach” to Systemic Psychotherapy founded by Luigi 
Boscolo and Gianfranco Cecchin at the end of the 
seventies will be outlined in the next presentation led by my 
colleague and friend Massimo Giuliani 
the reason why we decided that I should present the first 
will be clear at the end of my talk 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center
anyway it will be useful to remark that in the “roaring years” of the 
Systemic Psychotherapy (approx. 1970 – 1990) 
practicioners were stunned by the elegance 
both of conceptual models 
and of related practices 
it all looked so easy and simply beautiful 
on a regular basis the students fell in love with it, beginning to imitate 
what the Masters used to do 
small surprise if the results were many often clumsy, not beautiful at all 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center
with time, we learned that what we usually were doing in 
therapy 
not rarely was different from what we were taught 
and also from what we in turn were teaching to younger 
professionals 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center
in the field of systemic psychotherapy many 
scholars introduced new ideas trying to 
explain why systemic therapies seemed to 
be so extraordinary 
radical constructivism, conversationalism, 
social constructionism, narrativism … and so 
on 
this accelerated a flux of continuous 
changes in practice 
the mind-boggling thing was that practice 
kept being different from all models that 
tried to explain it 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center
in 1989 Gianfranco Cecchin gave a talk at the English Association of 
Family Therapy whose title was 
“OLD WINE IN NEW BOTTLES” 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center
“We are forced to repeat things very well known 
already, but it is still necessary that we keep 
talking about therapy and explain what we do 
… If old concepts are still good – if wine is still 
good – so why not to change the bottle, in other 
words why not to change the way in which 
concepts are described? Actually we have no 
other choice … as you can see, the story of 
family therapy, or the story of family theory is in 
turn a narrative structure. Just like the 
therapeutic process: once you arrive to a 
certain point, contradictions and unavoidable 
dissonances force you to look for a different 
explanation, a new story about what you are 
doing” 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center
I’m persuaded that Cecchin was serious and deeply rooted 
in his own therapeutic identity when he claimed that 
“actually we have no other choice” 
my claim, in turn, is that effective therapists are always in 
advance in respect of their reference model 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center
I also claim that this occurrence can be explained and it 
has strictly to do with the nature of a therapeutic process 
itself 
during the session the therapist is connected with 
“something in advance” in respect of the words he uses 
scholars probing the realm of consciousness can help us to 
understand why 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center
Henri Bergson, mathematician, philosopher, Nobel Prize 
David Bohm, physicist and science philosopher 
Montague Ullmann, psychiatrist, researcher and 
psychoanalyst 
Efstratios Manousakis, quantum physicist at Florida 
University 
they seem to have some basic ideas in common about 
consciousness, though the language they use and some 
philosophical implications can be different 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center
7 concepts they share 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center
consciousness is not “produced” by the brain 
consciousness is the basic ontological reality 
individual “substreams of consciousness” are part 
of a “global stream of consciousness” which 
comprehends all that exists and existed 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center 
1 
2 
3
important parts of consciousness, both individual 
and global, are in a “potential state” that can be 
actualized by the operations of the mind 
intuition works without the help of memory 
both the production of theories and the 
perception of “matter” are operations implying 
memory and comparison 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center 
4 
5 
6
intuition and action are in a close relationship 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center 
7
once a therapist becomes aware of what a patient 
“remembers/knows” about being in a certain state, the 
therapist can make an idea of what is allowed and 
forbidden to do with that patient 
this implies what the practice of Milan Approach shows 
since decades 
theories and related techniques much more than the sole 
“empathy” are not only useful, they are necessary to join a 
system and let the therapeutic relationship take place 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center
but once the therapist joined the system, change will occur only by 
forgetting theories, de-reifying narratives, relational patterns, roles and so 
on 
in other words 
the use of techniques paves the road to intuition 
which, in turn, has 
affective qualities that can be represented through metaphors 
which eventually, in Ullman’s words are 
“the stuff of reality” 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center
though different for what concerns the 
setting, in its ultimate roots the process is 
not quite different from that of creation in 
narrative 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center
Ernest Hemingway used to say 
about narrative process: 
“… I always try to write on the 
principle of the iceberg. There is 
seven-eighths of it underwater for 
every part that shows. Anything you 
know you can eliminate and it only 
strengthens your iceberg. It is the part 
that doesn’t show. 
If a writer omits something because he does not know it 
then there is a hole in the story.” 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center
about 40 years ago in Italy 
many of us fell in love with a 
song composed by a weird 
couple of guys, the songwriter 
Giorgio Gaber and the painter 
Sandro Luporini 
the song was called 
“Reality is a Bird ” 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center
“a strange bird fascinates me 
it has no past nor remains the same 
I must anticipate it I must go after it 
otherwise I’ll die for normality” 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center 
it’s up to you to wonder 
where it’s going to …“ 
“reality 
is a no-memory bird
in the most crucial moments of a session, a 
psychotherapist is abducted by a peaceful feeling of 
nothingness whence gush those 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center
intuitions 
metaphors 
actions 
that decide the destiny of a psychotherapy 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center
now Massimo Giuliani will introduce you to what we 
pretend the “Milan Approach” should look like 
it will be evident that the great value of its 
epistemological, theoretical and technical framework 
resides mainly in what the approach allows and forbids to 
do during therapy sessions 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center
that is, opening the gates 
to the unpredictable 
to the new 
to what will never be liable to a complete 
description 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center
Thank You! 
Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at 
Milan Center of Family Therapy’s 
School and Clinical Center

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The Systemic Therapy Between Science and Intuition - Krakow version

  • 1. Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center The Systemic Psychotherapy between Science and Intuition
  • 2. in this presentation I return – with several modifications -to issues I already treated and aslo recently this new version has been prepared for the Conference “The Anatomy of (un)reason” held in Krakòw, Poland, October 10 – 12° 2014. the presentation has to be followed by Massimo Giuliani’s presentation “Beyond Medicine – Beyond Psychology – Beyond Post-Modernism: The Milan Approach to Systemic Psychotherapy” http://prezi.com/2lgk1ozulcx7/the-milan-approach-to-systemic-psychotherapy/ Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center
  • 3. the aim of this presentation is to contribute to answer to a question that psychotherapists conforming to different schools of thought know very well Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center
  • 4. “what am I REALLY doing when I lead a therapy session?” despite therapists may try to remain faithful to their refernce theories and to the narratives by which they describe their approach to psychotherapy, there is always a gap between what they actually do and waht they tell that they do – included the theoretical explanations and modelizations of what they do my claim is that this is an unavoidable and even positive phenomenon Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center
  • 5. in trying to answer to the question I’ll draw from my own experience as a Systemic Psychotherapist and a Teacher of the so called “Milan Approach” to Systemic Psychotherapy in other words, I will not proceed from a generic or “neutral” point of view in the meantime I assume that the conclusions I will reach can be shared, in many cases, with professionals conforming to different theoretical frames Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center
  • 6. the main features and basic assumptions of the “Milan Approach” to Systemic Psychotherapy founded by Luigi Boscolo and Gianfranco Cecchin at the end of the seventies will be outlined in the next presentation led by my colleague and friend Massimo Giuliani the reason why we decided that I should present the first will be clear at the end of my talk Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center
  • 7. anyway it will be useful to remark that in the “roaring years” of the Systemic Psychotherapy (approx. 1970 – 1990) practicioners were stunned by the elegance both of conceptual models and of related practices it all looked so easy and simply beautiful on a regular basis the students fell in love with it, beginning to imitate what the Masters used to do small surprise if the results were many often clumsy, not beautiful at all Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center
  • 8. with time, we learned that what we usually were doing in therapy not rarely was different from what we were taught and also from what we in turn were teaching to younger professionals Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center
  • 9. in the field of systemic psychotherapy many scholars introduced new ideas trying to explain why systemic therapies seemed to be so extraordinary radical constructivism, conversationalism, social constructionism, narrativism … and so on this accelerated a flux of continuous changes in practice the mind-boggling thing was that practice kept being different from all models that tried to explain it Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center
  • 10. in 1989 Gianfranco Cecchin gave a talk at the English Association of Family Therapy whose title was “OLD WINE IN NEW BOTTLES” Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center
  • 11. “We are forced to repeat things very well known already, but it is still necessary that we keep talking about therapy and explain what we do … If old concepts are still good – if wine is still good – so why not to change the bottle, in other words why not to change the way in which concepts are described? Actually we have no other choice … as you can see, the story of family therapy, or the story of family theory is in turn a narrative structure. Just like the therapeutic process: once you arrive to a certain point, contradictions and unavoidable dissonances force you to look for a different explanation, a new story about what you are doing” Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center
  • 12. I’m persuaded that Cecchin was serious and deeply rooted in his own therapeutic identity when he claimed that “actually we have no other choice” my claim, in turn, is that effective therapists are always in advance in respect of their reference model Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center
  • 13. I also claim that this occurrence can be explained and it has strictly to do with the nature of a therapeutic process itself during the session the therapist is connected with “something in advance” in respect of the words he uses scholars probing the realm of consciousness can help us to understand why Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center
  • 14. Henri Bergson, mathematician, philosopher, Nobel Prize David Bohm, physicist and science philosopher Montague Ullmann, psychiatrist, researcher and psychoanalyst Efstratios Manousakis, quantum physicist at Florida University they seem to have some basic ideas in common about consciousness, though the language they use and some philosophical implications can be different Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center
  • 15. 7 concepts they share Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center
  • 16. consciousness is not “produced” by the brain consciousness is the basic ontological reality individual “substreams of consciousness” are part of a “global stream of consciousness” which comprehends all that exists and existed Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center 1 2 3
  • 17. important parts of consciousness, both individual and global, are in a “potential state” that can be actualized by the operations of the mind intuition works without the help of memory both the production of theories and the perception of “matter” are operations implying memory and comparison Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center 4 5 6
  • 18. intuition and action are in a close relationship Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center 7
  • 19. once a therapist becomes aware of what a patient “remembers/knows” about being in a certain state, the therapist can make an idea of what is allowed and forbidden to do with that patient this implies what the practice of Milan Approach shows since decades theories and related techniques much more than the sole “empathy” are not only useful, they are necessary to join a system and let the therapeutic relationship take place Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center
  • 20. but once the therapist joined the system, change will occur only by forgetting theories, de-reifying narratives, relational patterns, roles and so on in other words the use of techniques paves the road to intuition which, in turn, has affective qualities that can be represented through metaphors which eventually, in Ullman’s words are “the stuff of reality” Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center
  • 21. though different for what concerns the setting, in its ultimate roots the process is not quite different from that of creation in narrative Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center
  • 22. Ernest Hemingway used to say about narrative process: “… I always try to write on the principle of the iceberg. There is seven-eighths of it underwater for every part that shows. Anything you know you can eliminate and it only strengthens your iceberg. It is the part that doesn’t show. If a writer omits something because he does not know it then there is a hole in the story.” Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center
  • 23. about 40 years ago in Italy many of us fell in love with a song composed by a weird couple of guys, the songwriter Giorgio Gaber and the painter Sandro Luporini the song was called “Reality is a Bird ” Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center
  • 24. “a strange bird fascinates me it has no past nor remains the same I must anticipate it I must go after it otherwise I’ll die for normality” Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center
  • 25. Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center it’s up to you to wonder where it’s going to …“ “reality is a no-memory bird
  • 26. in the most crucial moments of a session, a psychotherapist is abducted by a peaceful feeling of nothingness whence gush those Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center
  • 27. intuitions metaphors actions that decide the destiny of a psychotherapy Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center
  • 28. now Massimo Giuliani will introduce you to what we pretend the “Milan Approach” should look like it will be evident that the great value of its epistemological, theoretical and technical framework resides mainly in what the approach allows and forbids to do during therapy sessions Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center
  • 29. that is, opening the gates to the unpredictable to the new to what will never be liable to a complete description Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center
  • 30. Thank You! Massimo Schinco, Italy Co-director at Milan Center of Family Therapy’s School and Clinical Center