Semantic Polarities and Psychopathologies in the Family

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The gap between psychotherapeutic practice and clinical theory is ever widening. Therapists still don’t know what role interpersonal relations play in the development of the most common psychopathologies. Valeria Ugazio bridges this gap by examining phobias, obsessive-compulsions, eating disorders, and depression in the context of the family, using an intersubjective approach to personality. Her concept of “semantic polarities” gives a groundbreaking perspective to the construction of meaning in the family and other interpersonal contexts. At no point is theory left in the wasteland of abstraction. The concreteness of the many case studies recounted, and examples taken from well-known novels, will allow readers to immediately connect the topics discussed with their own experience.


“Valeria Ugazio is a therapist and clinician of enormous stature who has deepened and broadened our understanding of the four psychopathologies that she discusses in this book. This publication, in its new and updated English-language edition, is long overdue and will be recognized as one of the most important contributions to appear in many years.” – Harry Procter, PhD, Consultant Clinical Psychologist

“Written with warmth and compassion for the relational dilemmas of her clients, Valeria Ugazio’s constructionist approach to meaning, the semantic polarities, captures the similarities and differences within families and the ways of organising meaning characterised by specific emotions that moves beyond description into explanation and implications for therapeutic practice.” – Arlene Vetere, FBPsS, AcSS, University of Surrey, United Kingdom

“This book is a remarkable achievement. Valeria Ugazio puts systemic family therapy back in possession of its earlier achievements. From a constructionist positioning she shows how semantic polarities are fundamental to the conversations by which families define their positions. Clinicians in particular will appreciate how the clear exposition of this strong and original theoretical position is applied to four major psychological difficulties, vividly illustrated by vignettes from her own practice. The results is a practical set of approaches that can be integrated into the practice of every systemic therapist.” – Peter Stratton, PhD, FBPsS, Emeritus Professor of Family Therapy, University of Leeds, UK


Introduction 1. The Construction of Psychopathological Disorders in Intersubjective Contexts

Part 1: The Model 2. Family Semantic Polarities

Part II: Semantics and Psychopathologies 3. Semantics of Freedom and Phobic Disorders 4. Between Good and Evil: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders 5. The Semantic of Power: Anorexia, Bulimia, and Other Eating Problems 6. Depression: Denied Belonging

Part III: Conclusion: Therapeutic Perspectives 7. Family Semantics and the Therapeutic Relationship

About the Author

Valeria Ugazio, PhD, is Professor of Clinical Psychology and Coordinator of the Clinical Psychology Doctorate program at the University of Bergamo, Italy, and the Scientific Director of the European Institute of Systemic-relational Therapies.