Historical Article: Families with Adolescents: Escaping Problem Lifestyles. Victoria Dickerson and Jeff Zimmerman (USA)

About this Session

VCD-recent-225×300Vicky Dickerson and VSNT faculty member Jeff Zimmerman were instrumental in writing, teaching, and supervising narrative therapists as narrative therapy was just beginning to take hold in North American. In fact Jeff was the first narrative therapy supervisor for both VSNT faculty members David Marsten and David Nylund (who had already begun their supervision apprenticeships at the time this article was written in 1992).

As is often cited in the early writings of Michael White (and demonstrated in the first workshops Michael did in North America you can watch in the VSNT.live Course section), Jeff and Vicki write on working with families and youth by way of exploring Gregory Bateson’s ideas on ‘restraints’. For 1st wave narrative therapists (1986-1996), Bateson’s idea of restraints (and negative explanation) that Michael, Jeff, and Vicky wrote about in the early days was, and still is, highly influential in how we conceptualize and practice our narrative therapy practice.

Restraints are viewed as conditions in which certain beliefs, incidents, or events in people’s experience are selected instead of others, and thereby prevent them from noticing other incidents, events, or beliefs. They also discuss Bateson’s notions of “restraints of redundancy” and “restraints of feedback.” Restraints of redundancy “include the network of presuppositions, premises, and expectations that make up the family members’ map of the ‘world’ and that establish rules for the selection of information about perceived objects or events. Restraints of feedback focus more on the cybernetic circuit of information and feedback that can be observed within living systems. This circuit can be seen as a reciprocal pattern of invitation and response, whereby one person might act in a specific way, inviting a specific response from another, and vice versa. Over time, these behaviours become patterned so that there is a certain inevitability about their repetition.


Jeff Zimmerman PhD


Jeff Zimmerman is considered at the top of the list of veteran narrative therapist/teachers in North America. Since 2020 he and his partner D’Ann live in Denver, Colorado after living in the Mission district of San Francisco, California for 3 decades. Jeff began his apprenticeship with Michael White in 1988 and became Michael’s closest friend in…


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