Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

2019 Edition
| Editors: Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Punctuation in Family Systems Theory

  • J. Gregory BriggsEmail author
  • Chris J. Gonzalez
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_340

Name of Intervention





Punctuation is a method of reconceptualizing a series of events in a linear manner (i.e., one event causes another) when the events are in fact arranged in a circular manner (i.e., events mutually influence one another). Watzlawick et al. (1967) saw punctuation as a vital tool for organizing ongoing interactions. In this way, punctuation simplifies a complex web of interactions. Punctuation can be useful in therapy when a therapist utilizes it to examine individual steps in a conflict cycle (e.g., “Tell me what happens after you get angry”). Yet, it can also create conflict when clients punctuate a series of events at different points, allowing them to blame one another for the struggles they are facing. For example, when a couple argues about who started a fight, it is often because each partner has punctuated a series of events at different places.

Theoretical Framework

As an intervention, punctuation has its...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Counseling, and Family ScienceLipscomb UniversityNashvilleUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Eli Karam
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA