Cognitive reframing and context reframing explained

Reframing is used within systemic therapy to establish new points of view within a family circle and to alter intrinsic perceptions individuals within that social group have of another. This includes also eradicating automatic judgment and designation of particular behaviour or intentions a family member might have.

Reframing or restructuring aims to encourage new perceptions and new interpretations of situations, behaviour or a person within a social setting. If a particular type of behaviour has been viewed as being negative, such as the strictness of a parent for a example, then reframing introduces another point of view that is positive, identifying that same person as a caring parent who only wants the best for their child. In that way aspects of a situation can be revealed which were hitherto denied or completely ignored by other members of the social group.

System therapy works with two types of restructuring:

  • Content or cognitive reframing
  • Context reframing

Content or cognitive reframing allows family members to attribute a new meaning or interpretation to an established situation or behaviour. Using the above example: where “strictness” was once viewed as negative, “concern” is seen as something positive. In this way the display of hesitant behaviour is merely viewed as someone being careful, while dominant behaviour is interpreted as a person being eager to make decisions. Allowing a new interpretation of established behaviour or situations enables members of a social group to see good intentions behind an action or behaviour.

Context reframing within systemic therapy deals with the fact that behaviour deemed disruptive or irritating in certain situations can actually be a sign of strength in another situation. For example, while impulsiveness is often viewed as something negative, it can actually be a great strength in a crisis, where “thinking on your feet” is required to save the day.

Reframing is applied in systemic therapy to dissolve blockades and inspire new interpretations. Cards for Life can assist in this process of reframing, because they enable people to judge people and situations in a different light.

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