What is systemic (family) therapy?

In Austria, the 23 recognised psychotherapeutic schools will in the future be grouped into four process clusters (basic orientations): Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, Humanistic Psychotherapy, Behavioural Therapy and Systemic Psychotherapy.

Very briefly described, systemic family therapy is based on the theory that problems basically arise and are maintained in relationship contexts and thus communicatively. These interactive processes generate ideas in the person concerned about him/herself and others, which ultimately cause suffering, prevent change or further development and positive social interactions. Solutions are sought, created and invented in an appreciative attitude towards all those involved in the social environment by tracking down resources, narratives and social discourses in different settings (individual, couple, family therapy).
In doing so, a variety of systemic partly circular questioning techniques as well as systemic methods of narrative work, externalising, reflecting, disturbing, solution orientation, self-reflexive dialogue, the use of the “Reflecting Team” or the Outsider Witness Group, work with visualising techniques such as family sculptures and constellations, the prescription of “homework”, closing interventions or rituals as well as therapeutic work with metaphors and much more are applied. The constructivist/constructionist attitude of the systemic psychotherapist plays an essential role.

In addition, many techniques are taught to become therapeutically helpful with larger systems – couple therapy, family therapy, group therapy, child therapy in the presence of caregivers, and much more. These techniques help to focus on the togetherness of people and their needs, because it is well known that the sum of the parts is different from the “whole” and requires different theories and interventions.

Who are we?

The systemic teaching therapist team for the elective subject (Wahlpflichtfach) Systemic Family Therapy.

As is well known, the perception of others and the perception of oneself differ. In our self-description we are the following:

An active, interested, curious, humorous, inquisitive team of teaching therapists (from the late 30s to the mid 70s), well mixed in age, who not only try to live the “spirit” of Systemic Family Therapy, the associated image of man and the underlying epistemological and system-theoretical theories in their work with clients/patients, but also want to convey it in this way to young training colleagues in a lively and practical way. On the one hand, each teaching therapist is an “all-rounder” in systemic work, but also has his/her own hobby horses and specialisms. All in all, we are able to represent the diversity of theory and methods well for the students through the team of teaching therapists. A colourful bouquet of professional diversity and plenty of room for human individuality.

In addition to the coordination team, you will get to know the following ÖAS teaching therapists in the course of your studies or in the elective course Systemic Family Therapy or become mentors and good companions on the way to becoming a psychotherapist.

  • Dr. Corina Ahlers
  • Mag. Alexander Dergovic
  • Mag. Katharina Janowitz
  • Elfriede Feichtinger, MSc.
  • Robert Koch, MSc.
  • Mag. Klaus Schmidsberger
  • Dr. Imre Remenyi
  • Hedi Wagner, DAS

Of course, we also invite national or international guest speakers on specific topics.

Who is heading the elective subject Systemic Family Therapy?

What is the cooperation with ÖAS?

The elective subject Systemic Family Therapy or specialisation (Fachspezifikum) with its methodological focus is carried out by the following cooperation partner:

Austrian Association for Systemic Therapy and Systemic Studies for the Method of Systemic Family Therapy – ÖAS
(Österreichische Arbeitsgemeinschaft für systemische Therapie und systemische Studien für die Methode der systemischen Familientherapie – ÖAS)

Web: www.oeas.at

This means that the delegation of the lecturers, the subject-specific course of studies as well as the formal training criteria for certification and entry in the official list of psychotherapists of the Federal Ministry of Health are carried out by the ÖAS.

Information on the elective subject Systemic Family Therapy - How does the training work?

The SF elective subject or the subject-specific training via the ÖAS-SFU comprises the following steps or requirements:

In principle, the training via the ÖAS-SFU is divided into 2 sections, namely a “first” and “second” subject-specific section. You will receive a separate study book from the ÖAS, which will give you orientation regarding the requirements in the course of your studies for what lies behind you and still awaits you in your learning process.

The “first” section covers the semester period of B5 as well as B6 in the SFU study programme and the “second” section begins at the time when you are awarded the status “in training under supervision” by the ÖAS. This second section mostly coincides with the semester M1-M4.

In total, the following contents and training hours have to be completed over both sections via the WPF or ÖAS study book:

1. personality development: at least 220h
(individual self-awareness = ELSE: 80h group self-awareness: 140h)
100 hours are integrated in the SFU study plan, are organised through the SFU and are included in the tuition fees. An additional 40 hours of group and 80 hours of individual self-awareness must be organised externally and paid for separately (both parts to be organised externally must be organised through the ÖAS or teaching therapists for systemic family therapy – offer on the ÖAS homepage).
100% attendance is compulsory for all self-awareness seminars.

2. internship: 550h
Of these, at least 150 hours must be completed at a “relevant” health care institution within one year.

3. theory and methods: at least 390 hours
These are offered in 15-hour seminars at weekends (Fr. 16.00-20.00 and Sat. 9.00-18.00) or in the B5 and B6 period as literature seminars (weekly on a weekday – 17.00 to 20.00 or 21.00). Attendance is also compulsory. You need 200 theory hours to acquire the status of “psychotherapist in training under supervision” so that you can start “practice” or practical work at the outpatient clinic. The rest of the theory seminars will be completed in the so-called “second” specialisation period during the M1-M4 curriculum period.

4. internship reflection: 30h
These 30 hours are completed as needed parallel to the internship, e.g. in open Tuesday SF groups with Jutta Fiegl, Gerda Mehta or Hedi Wagner or in other SF supervision groups.

5. practice: 630h practice
Practice here means the independent psychotherapeutic treatment of patients under supervision. Approval for practical work or “status” is granted in writing by the head of the elective subject after a personal interview with the student and initially involves working at the SFU outpatient clinic for 200 hours.

In order to be granted the status of “psychotherapist in training under supervision” (assessment and issuing by the ÖAS representative), students need:

  • at least 110 hours of personality development, whereby half of the individual self-awareness (=40 hours) must have been completed.
  • 200h theory or methods
  • a large part of the internships
  • a large part of the internship reflection
  • the Bachelor’s Degree in Psychotherapy Science
  • and a positive evaluation of the first two term papers and 2 literature papers by the course lead.

The requirements for permission to work in the SFU Outpatient Clinic, which can be given after the first year at the earliest, are

  • Status “in training under supervision”
  • Work as a co-therapist with Dr. Mehta in the outpatient clinic
  • Completion of the bachelor’s degree

A total of at least 100 hours of psychotherapy must be completed in the outpatient clinic. Regular attendance of the outpatient clinic sessions is also compulsory. Later, students can also work in their own practice.

6. practice supervision: 220h
This takes place in the form of group supervision or video analysis and is legally obligatory in addition to the practice.

7. annual screenings and semester certificates

The following serve as semester evaluation (for the time-being):

  • In the 1st semester a written paper:
    My examination of the systemic perspective (approx. 10-15 pages).
  • At the end of the 2nd semester:
    My engagement with the systemic way of working (approx. 10-15 pages).
  • The presentation of the selected literature and the student’s written submission serve to evaluate the course “Literature Work”.
  • In the other semesters, the “semester performance” is evaluated by an independently conducted psychotherapy and the corresponding case analysis, which must be handed in at the end of each semester (approx. 10 pages).

At the end of each academic year, there are screening talks with the director, which offer the opportunity for reflection on what has been achieved and what is still open, mutual feedback and, above all, an exchange between students and those responsible for the course. The written work must already be available for this.

Requirements for obtaining the ÖAS Certificate in Systemic Family Therapy, with which you can apply to the Austrian Federal Ministry to be listed on the list of psychotherapists (professional authorisation):

  • Master’s degree
  • Positive completion of all requirements stipulated in the ÖAS course book. This includes the completion of 2 video/audio analyses, and for each semester in status a positively assessed case reflection of approx. 10 pages.
  • A fully completed ÖAS study book with the respective signatures of the teachers.
  • Presentation of the 630 protocols for independent work as a psychotherapist.
  • Presentation of the documents of all completed courses listed in the study book.

With the ÖAS certificate you can then apply to the Austrian Federal Ministry of Health for registration in the psychotherapist list.

Registration and admission to the elective Systemic Family Therapy

You need 2 admission interviews with the course heads (from WS 2021/22 obligatory with Mag. Höher and optionally Dr. Mehta or Prof. Fiegl) and a selection seminar.

Additionally you need:

  • Austrian secondary school leaving certificate (Matura), nostrified Matura or university entrance qualification – or admission to the propaedeutic course
  • Final certificate of the propaedeutic course
  • Certificate of aptitude for the subject-specific course from the Austrian Federal Ministry or the source profession. Neither of these is required if a notification of admission to the propaedeutic course has already been issued.
  • Admission to the elective is not possible without a propaedeutic certificate or a certificate of aptitude from the BMG!

If you are at least 24 years old, you also become an ÖAS member when you are admitted to the elective. SFU will pay the annual ÖAS membership fee for you for 3 years. Lateron you will have to pay this fee annually yourself until you are registered with the BMG (this is possible at the age of 28 at the earliest).

If you are not yet 24 when you join the elective, you will attend the elective but will not yet be accepted as an ÖAS member. As soon as you have reached the age of 24, you will be admitted and the crediting guidelines of the Federal Ministry of Health “Type F” will apply. After a positive commission crediting examination, the completed study parts of the elective can be credited to you for the ÖAS certification.