Beyond the impasse? Systemic consultation and understanding complex cases

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Publication details

Rhodes, P, Donelly, M, Whatson, L, Brearley, K, Dikian, J, Hansson, A, Franic, T & Mora, L 2014, 'Beyond the Impasse? Systemic Consultation and Understanding Complex Cases', Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 226-235.

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Systemic consultation provides an oppor-tunity for clinicians working with complex cases and behaviours of concern to reflect on interpersonal dynamics that may be inhibiting change. This approach to case review is drawn from systemic family therapy, a model that is gaining some acceptance within the field of intellectual disability.


Thematic analysis was used to explore the experience of eleven clinicians attending systemic consultation. Clinicians were experienced in behaviour support, had no prior experience in family therapy and presented with complex cases described as ‘stuck’.


Consultations were seen to have many benefits, including a heightened awareness of the interpersonal needs of both clients and carers and the development of a facilitative position and skills to apply to cases. Less experienced clinicians were more likely to feel overwhelmed by this less structured, more relationally oriented focus.


Systemic consultation has the potential to augment behaviour support, enabling clinicians to understand and negotiate problematic interpersonal dynamics when responding to behavioural difficulties. Less experienced clinicians may require additional training and support in the systemic approach

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