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Discussion of Postmodernism in Modern World Essay

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Updated: Aug 2nd, 2022

The postmodernist turn in psychology and social sciences has made interactions between clients and therapists more focused on language and processes to make sense of relationships and feelings. Postmodernism and social constructionism are becoming increasingly common in marital and family therapy practices, so understanding their essence is crucial for a qualified MFT professional. This essay is devoted to the author’s understandings of postmodernism, its connections to other theories, potential uses, and concerns.

From my perspective, the emphasis on language and meaning rather than social/biological systems could be listed among the clear and compelling elements of postmodern thought. The acquisition of social skills in human development is inextricably connected with linguistic competencies and socialization through language, which explains the central role of language in the postmodernist movement (Chenail et al., 2020). Among other things, postmodernism recognizes the great power that words, terms, and subjective understanding have on individuals and couples. This includes the therapeutic influences of language and the opportunity to use it to “unframe problematic framing to help families generate healthier possibilities” (Chenail et al., 2020, p. 418). The tendency to ignore the subjective meanings expressed through language can be harmful in counseling, which is why the listed element is easy to explain.

When it comes to systems theories, there is a drastic contradiction between attempts to explore the family or other units holistically and applying the postmodernist approach. Postmodernism holds that one global theory cannot “describe, explain, interpret, and predict all human behavior” and that there should be “a plurality of possible descriptions and interpretations” (Chenail et al., 2020, p. 418). Since a belief in the absence of objective knowledge is prevalent in postmodernism, this movement rejects attempts to apply systems thinking to the family. For instance, Bowen’s family systems theory views the family as a coherent emotional unit and posits that it is impossible to understand a person without exploring his/her immediate social surroundings (Erdem & Safi, 2018). Such theories emphasize the system’s homeostasis as a contributor to people’s behaviors, whereas postmodernism lays stress on every involved person’s unique worldviews and perceptions.

Postmodernism and social constructionism inform my work by influencing the selection of interviewing techniques and the readiness to accept the multiplicity of perspectives on the same issue in clinical contexts. Social constructionism gives the pride of place to interpretive disciplines and psychological explanations (Gergen, 1985). This perspective is reflected in my interviewing activities with clients, including the prevalence of open-ended and clarification questions. Asking individuals to explain and define even the simplest concepts linked to their marriage issues, which is also known as not-knowing, is also common in my practice with couples. As for other postmodernist approaches, I treat clients as experts and avoid comparing their systems of values with any reference points and outdated expectations of a healthy family (Northcentral University, 2017). In interpersonal conflicts, instead of taking sides, I explore my clients’ unique value systems to help them find any intersecting point to start a productive dialogue.

Partially due to the focus on meanings and subjective concepts, postmodernism has changed the mental health community’s understanding of families’ and individuals’ uniqueness, which supports conversations related to diversity, inclusion, and equity. In the postmodernist approach, instead of therapist-directed sessions, clients are viewed as experts who enable therapists to learn more about their lives and personal goals, thus maximizing the recognition of unique perspectives (Glass, 2019). Postmodern therapists often support the deconstruction of social power and are open to studying prejudice and dominance through exploring their clients’ subjective experiences and worldviews (Glass, 2019). Depending on the therapist’s ability to raise social awareness, insights from psychotherapy and counseling sessions informed by postmodernism can promote the recognition of new groups that experience social injustice or feel excluded from mainstream society. Therefore, through its focus on the individual, postmodernism can support inclusion and the acceptance of diversity.

Postmodernist ideas can support the formation of coping strategies, which are among the essential elements of the recovery model. The concept of recovery rejects the dichotomy of the normal and the abnormal, and the recovery process is generally viewed as an individual’s unique journey to subjective well-being. Therefore, both the model and postmodern ideas demonstrate skepticism towards “the norm.” Using the postmodernist approach, therapists can foster recovery by aiding clients in narratives’ development in the formulation of coping techniques informed by their views of life. However, one confusing point is how the denial of objective reality should coexist with the therapist’s ability to prevent the use of coping techniques that are objectively harmful.

Considering the point above, there are some concerns regarding connections between postmodernism and MFT. Specifically, postmodernism fosters a celebration of uniqueness and a departure from any generalizations about society, which, in my opinion, can hinder the evaluation of MFT sessions’ effectiveness and therapeutic results. If there are no objective criteria of happiness, well-being, and marital satisfaction, the systematization of knowledge on counseling methods that work and do not work can be problematic.

To sum up, postmodernism is a fascinating movement that transforms approaches to helping families resolve interpersonal conflicts. Postmodernism aims to reject fixed and inflexible systems, thus opposing generalization and promoting relativism. Its ideas inform more individualized approaches to family counseling and the thorough exploration of central issues as they are viewed and explained by all affected parties. These characteristics enable postmodern therapists to act as social justice advocates.


Chenail, R. J., Reiter, M. D., Torres-Gregory, M., & Ilic, D. (2020). Postmodern family therapy. In K. S. Wampler, R. B. Miller, & R. B. Seedall (Eds.), The handbook of systemic family therapy: Volume 1 (pp. 417-442). John Wiley & Sons.

Erdem, G., & Safi, O. A. (2018). Journal of Family Theory & Review, 10(2), 469-483.

Gergen, K. (1985). American Psychologist, 40(3), 266-275.

Glass, V. (2019). Postmodernism and social constructionism in family therapy. In Y. Watters & D. Adamson (Eds.), An introduction to MFT: Systems theory and foundational models (pp. 225-238). Northcentral University.

Northcentral University. (2017). Postmodernism and social constructionism [Video]. Web.

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