The road that connects the individual and social resources

Eremo delle Carceri, Monte Subasio, Umbria. Where St Franicis of Assisi and his monks would come to pray and contemplate.

Eremo delle Carceri, Monte Subasio, Umbria. Where St Franicis of Assisi and his monks would come to pray and contemplate.

Questa conferenza molto importante of 1000 delegates was held in Assisi, Italy. Assisi is the birthplace of St Francis of Assisi; an Italian mystic and Catholic Friar who founded the Franciscan order in Assisi, Umbria. Umbria is also the home of Anna Mascellani, recently retired from the Academia who welcomed the delegates to the Conference with reference to the significance of Assisi. St Francis was a Friar and not a priest and he rejected power and wealth, believing in an authentic, personal life where human relationships, humanity, doing humble things to help people in need and create healing were more important than religious ceremonies.

This underlined the theme of the Conference and celebrated 30 years of the Academia’s multigenerational family therapy approach to family therapy which they have shared with many countries. Professor Maurizio Andolfi in his welcoming address to the delegates hoped to foster friendship, collaboration, collegiality and curiosity and create a Manifesto. The Manifesto would be a public declaration of the common principles of Family Therapy practice to provide belonging for a large group of professionals from different disciplines.

The Aussies with Maurizio in Red

The Aussies with Maurizio in Red

Travelling more than 13,000kms from, Perth Western Australia to Italy, required more than a few days in Italy at a Conference. My colleague and friend, Marie Collins and I had the pleasure and delight of being a tourist in the old town of Assisi for 6 days before the Conference. We both fell in love with the Italians, their hospitality, the language and the food. We enjoyed the evensong in Italian at the San Francisco Basilica and in the tiny chapel of San Domiano where the pews were so small it only allowed 3 to sit.

From tourist to Conference delegate was another journey. One of the best places to meet other professionals from different countries was on the bus from “old” Assisi to the Conference Venue. We shared experiences of family therapy, the similarities and differences between the countries with Ellen Brokx, family therapist from Holland. We met up with old colleagues and friends including Katalin Laczko, Child Psychiatrist from Hungary, Tizziana Bufacchi, clinical psychologist, Viviana Cheng, Doctor of Psychology and Executive Director, Asian Academy of Family Therapy, Takeshi Tamura, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and President, Asian Academy of Family Therapy from Tokyo, Japan.


I am sure there were many more words of wisdom from the wealth of panel and workshop presenters that I may have missed. Below are some of the themes captured from Panel and Workshop presenters that I was able to attend. Some of the words belong to Maurizio Andolfi, Wai Yung Lee, Peter Rober, Froma Walsh, Kiira Jarv and Triin Kahre.

Children, Adolescents and Families Theme

Connect more with the resources of the child and the Family. Amplify childrens’ voices in family therapy as parents more often listen to the Child. The child is the guide inside the family history. Build on alliances with the child by delabeling and giving relational meaning to his/her problems/worries; moving from protection of children to respect of children to enable them to have a voice.

Foster connection and belonging in the work with families create stability and structure by letting families know that we care and willing to help them. Increase the resources to extended family members, friends, community links.

Adolescents speak with their bodies. Often the adolescent is the “hostage” in the session. They may view themselves as the unworthy child, experience confusion, shame and fear of not being good enough, compared to the despair of the parents’ feeling failure, guilt, impotence, fear and exhaustion. Therapist needs to be aware of what is not being said and how to assist the process of Silence through the use of evaluation questionnaires as conversational tools.

Systemic thinking is a Map, who is not in the room as well as those who are. Multi-level systemic processes; the individual, family, community, social/cultural influences.

Complex and traumatic loss and family therapy theme

Losses from the past that come into the present. Loss comes through the family and ripples through the entire family system. Moving forward but looking backwards.

Definition of Resilience – Strength in overcoming adversity. It is coping plus adaptation plus positive growth. It is much more than individual personality traits. It is a dynamic process by which people use protective factors and resources to reach a positive outcome. It is more than surviving, (Re) gaining the ability to thrive, becoming stronger and more resourceful. Human Resistance is Nurtured in Relational Bonds. (Emmy Werner resilience is a dynamic process).

Loss and grief is a human predicament we all share; as professionals what do we bring personally and professionally into the room. We bring ourselves, our relational selves to all our therapeutic work.

Our personal experiences, family legacies can constrain or enrich our ability to engage and to foster healing and resilience.

How the past still lives in the present; collective traumas on family relationships and how to heal this. Therapy is about the future, dangerous to stay in the past but one needs to know the past. This past can lead to fear, shame, desperation and humility but it also leads to courage and creativity within families and their communities. Role of the therapist to provide the positive connotations to families seeking help.

Global Family/Systemic Therapists Voice

“I had not read anything written from Maurizio Andolfi prior to the conference ….I really connected to his theory during the conference and I could see very well how useful it can be in practice. It was admirable that the Academia had brought together voices from so many different corners of the world, from countries poor and rich, from innovative and classic approaches to systemic ideas. All three days considered, I learned, I debated, I got inspired in this most valuable space of Systemic co-existence of languages, cultures and ideas. I also managed to get 3 Albanian Systemics under one roof and in one photo. Historic! I left Assisi with a renewed trust in the wealth and value of Systemic thinking and practice, renewed appreciation for our UK based practice, strengthened friendships and new friendships, most of all with the DRIVE to keep going and do better, one step at a time. I went alone to this conference from London, but I was never alone. Colleagues from Torino, Holland and Greece, thank you for the memories”

“Assisi is where my first conference as a first year student of the Accademia in 2011 took place. Coming back this year, after moving to the UK has really meant to touch base with my roots but doing so in an International Conference has been revealing and transforming. I met old friends and teachers, and made new friends. Beyond all the shared experiences and reflections of the panel and workshops presenters, and within all the different languages, cultures and techniques, I felt a belonging that is often lost or forgotten when working in a private practice. I felt anew, full of energy and ideas, transformed by the experience and even more certain that transformation, in ourselves as much as in therapy, is achieved through relationships: families and communities, without forgetting our planet, the nest where to nurture those relationships.”

International Conference Dinner and Celebration

Mille Grazie to the Academia di Psicoterapia della Famiglia, Rome, Italy for the years of hard work in organising this ambitious International Conference. To Maurizio Andolfi for hosting and creating the atmosphere of collegiality and collaboration. To his partner in Life, Lorena Cavalieri who is a fantastic family therapist in her own right. Together they create a dynamic duo in their passion and work to promote Family Therapy in Italy, their birth home; in Australia, their new home and Globally as they continue to present at many International Conferences.

Written by Anne Holloway | AAFT Representative