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    The application of systems theory to organisations or families. The development of therapeutic skills within the systemic model.

    Family and systems therapy addresses problems from a whanau perspective, rather than siting problems within an individual. It examines layers of complexity present within families and the systems they live within and collaborates with these people to find new meaning and hope.

    About this paper

    Paper title Applied Systems Theory
    Subject Psychological Medicine
    EFTS 0.25
    Points 30 points
    Teaching period Not offered in 2024, expected to be offered in 2025 (Distance learning)
    Domestic Tuition Fees ( NZD ) $3,103.25
    International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.
    PSMX 437
    Limited to
    MHealSc, PGCertHealSc, PGDipHealSc
    (i) Students must be able to demonstrate a basic level of counselling/therapy skills. (ii) It is preferable that students be employed in a setting that allows them to apply systemic ideas to their ongoing work.

    Applicants need to have an appropriate health, counselling or education qualification (extensive experience will be considered) and need to be working in and have access to a context within which the fieldwork component (40 hours) of the paper can be completed.

    Interested applicants are invited to commence phase one of online enrolment with the University ( As there is a clinical component to this paper, registered applicants will be sent an Application for Acceptance Form to be considered for this paper. Phone interviews will then be arranged. If successful, applicants will be invited to formally enrol with the University.

    Enrolments for this paper require departmental permission. View more information about departmental permission.


    Teaching staff

    Course Convenor and Lecturer: To be advised.
    And other family therapists representing a variety of models.

    Paper Structure

    PSME 437 will enable students with an appropriate health professional qualification to begin to understand the principles and practice of systemic therapy as applied to families or organisations. This paper provides students with a basic grounding in systemic principles and teaches the skills necessary to assess and intervene in family or organisational systems.

    So that students are able to practise their skills, it is preferable that they be employed in a setting that allows them to do so in an ongoing way. Assessment will be focused on the integration of theory and practice, and the demonstration of skills in line with this. As this paper is distance taught, students will participate in a supervision group throughout the semester so that they remain connected to the group and are able to pace their learning.

    This is a practice- and skills-oriented paper, focusing upon the development of conceptual, assessment and interventive skills with families and other systems. It requires a considerable amount of supervised fieldwork (40 hours). Completion of the programme will also go towards meeting goals set out in the Werry Centre competency framework for the Child and Youth Mental Health workforce, Real Skills Plus, 2009. This second paper contributes to the completion of the two-paper certificate, which will increase the therapeutic ability of social service professionals who wish to make a difference to the well-being of families in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

    Teaching Arrangements
    This paper consists of two 3-day blocks and one 2-day block, which includes the final exam. Attendance at the block courses is compulsory, and students are required to make travel arrangements around the specific dates and times.

    To be advised before Block One.

    Graduate Attributes Emphasised
    Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding.
    View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
    Learning Outcomes

    Students who successfully complete the paper will gain:

    • A basic knowledge of systems theory
    • Competence to intervene in families
    • Knowledge of the appropriateness of the intervention
    • The ability to reflect on their own learning and position as a therapist/intervener


    Not offered in 2024, expected to be offered in 2025

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught through Distance Learning
    Learning management system
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