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Systemic thinking offers holistic and dynamic perspectives on phenomena, which have yielded new and alternative solutions to critical research challenges. Especially in sciences tackling the complexity of human beings, as e.g. in 4E cognitive science, systemic heuristics have proved particularly useful and ...

Systemic thinking offers holistic and dynamic perspectives on phenomena, which have yielded new and alternative solutions to critical research challenges. Especially in sciences tackling the complexity of human beings, as e.g. in 4E cognitive science, systemic heuristics have proved particularly useful and necessary. Yet, within research on psychological symptoms and distress, individualistic approaches are still predominant.

A systemic framing considers the contextual matrix of meanings, which arises from the complex network of relations in which we are immersed since birth. Systemic therapists have always made use of at least triadic explicative schemes for making sense of psychological symptoms, thereby breaching not only the limits of the monad but also those of the dyad and thus paving the way for more complex explanatory accounts of psychopathology.

Systemic therapy stemmed from an interdisciplinary dialogue with e.g., systems theory, cybernetics, synergetics, complexity science, and cognitive science. It was informed by concepts such as self-organization, circularity, the constitutive role of social interaction, which are now adopted by current cognitive sciences, e.g. the enactive approach. Yet, the last decades have witnessed a weakening of the interdisciplinary dialogue between these disciplines. Despite the revolutionary and promising character of systemic heuristics for advancing our understanding of psychological symptoms, many systemic therapists bracket attempts at explaining their development. Such epoché on etiopathogenesis might be due to the systemic attempt to deconstruct diagnostic labels and de-pathologize mental health issues.

However, systemic explanatory hypotheses also have an inherent clinical value, helping to reframe monadic or dyadic explanations - often associated with negative feelings such as blame, guilt, or shame - into more contextual and empowering narratives. We thus believe that systemic thinking can improve the way we construe and deconstruct psychological symptoms and distress.

The goal of this Research Topic is to explore the different kinds of explanatory patterns characterizing the broad field of Systemic Thinking when making sense of psychopathology. We welcome contributions from systemic psychotherapy as well as from other psychotherapy models and more generally from clinical, developmental, experimental psychology, and social and transcultural psychiatry. We would also especially like to encourage an interdisciplinary dialogue with other research fields such as cognitive sciences, philosophy, dynamic systems theory, synergetics, and complexity science.

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

● Systemic constructions of psychological distress at the individual, family, interpersonal, and cultural level. Systemic approaches to evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of psychological disorders, behavioral problems, and also medical phenomena commonly considered relevant to clinical health psychology (e.g., medically unexplained symptoms).
● Interdisciplinary contributions from research fields such as e.g. enactive cognitive science, which apply systemic models of human behavior to the understanding of psychological symptoms, distress, and/or therapeutic change.
● Research in transcultural and social psychiatry investigating e.g. the role of societal, cultural, or institutional factors in psychopathology or cross-cultural comparisons.
● Developmental studies investigating triadic or broader interactions or different cultural and ecological environments, making sense of symptoms, dysfunctional behavior, or distress.

Original Research, Single Case studies, Data Reports, Study Protocols, Community Case Studies, Reviews, theoretical perspectives, and viewpoints are welcome.

Keywords: systemic thinking, symptom explanations, triadic frameworks, psychopathology, psychotherapy, enactive approach, dynamic systems


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