Forewords and Acknowledgments

Foreword by Peter K. Smith   Preface to the original German edition
Foreword by Sandra A. Rigazio-DiGilio   Acknowledgments


Foreword by Peter K. Smith
  This Manual, and the FAST test, will be of great use and interest to many workers in the area of family therapy, clinical practice, and psychological research with children and families more generally.

I became acquainted with the FAST test some eight years ago, and rapidly saw the many ways in which it can be an appealing tool for work with families. First, the FAST is fast! It can be done in the matter of minutes. Second, it is generally a task which children and adults find interesting and absorbing. In these respects, it is much more pleasurable to give a FAST test than a battery of questionnaires.

The FAST test is also versatile. It can give typical, ideal, and conflict representations of a family. It can also be used to compare different member's representations of the same family. We are currently using it to see the extent to which family members can portray FAST configurations given by other family members, a measure of perspective taking or understanding others' minds.

Also, the FAST combines quantitative and qualitative information. The measures of cohesion and hierarchy, both central concepts in understanding family dynamics, can be readily measured. But in addition, the actual structure of the plot, and the behavioral observations and additional information obtained during the interview, provide a richness of information suitable for a case study approach and clinical interpretation. In these respects, the FAST can be used both for clinical work, and for normative studies. As an example of the latter, I and my colleagues have used it with English and Italian samples to examine family background factors in bullying and victimization at school.

This Manual provides the essential information for users of the FAST: the details of procedure, psychometric properties, scoring, and examples of case study interpretation. It will be welcomed by current and future users of the FAST and contribute to its further use by researchers, and by clinicians, each in their own way seeking to understand families and to help those families with troubled relationships.

Peter K. Smith
Department of Psychology
Goldsmiths College
University of London

Foreword by Sandra A. Rigazio-DiGilio
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One of the most prodigious contributions any theoretician, researcher, and/or practitioner can provide is to make the complex simple. That is, to operationalize a complicated phenomenon so that it is understandable, applicable, and readily available for ongoing practice, research, and theory construction. Dr. Thomas M. Gehring has provided such a contribution to the health profession. He has constructed and investigated an important figure-placement technique that can help transform the abstract complexities of family organization and interaction into concrete phenomena that can be used in clinical, theoretical, and empirical domains. As a professor, supervisor, researcher, licensed psychologist, licensed marriage and family therapist, and professional counselor, I find that the FAST can be a significant resource in each of these domains.

The FAST measures two dimensions of family structure by having respondents (The FAST can be administered to individual family members, significant subsystems, or whole family groups. Therefore the term "respondent" is used to cover each of these possibilities.) arrange figures on a board to indicate cohesion, and elevate these figures with blocks to demonstrate hierarchy. Both of these concepts are difficult to concretize for family members, beginning therapists, and students, as well as for research purposes. By asking family members to represent how they understand these properties to be operating within their system during three different family situations - typical, ideal, and conflictual - individuals are quickly able to comprehend the relational arrangements that they perceive to exist within their family during various types of family Interaction. Along with this, the FAST can also tap into family members'perceptions of these properties at various system levels (i.e., individual, subsystem, and family), and can compare individual and collective perceptions within the family group. Such information can be illuminating for the families themselves, as well as for practitioners, researchers, theoreticians, and others interested in understanding family organization and dynamics.

Dr. Gehring has devised a scoring process for the resultant three-dimensional configurations that can be used to determine the range of emotional connectedness and the degree of influence perceived to exist within and across generations for each of the three family circumstances. Cohesion and hierarchy scores can also be combined to classify family structure as perceived in each situation, and can be compared across circumstances to determine perceived family flexibility. Responses to follow-up, semi-structured interviews can be quantitatively and qualitatively analyzed to provide further data for understanding the functioning of the family. The process of constructing configurations, scoring these, and discussing the results can provide an interactive assessment activity beneficial to each family member, the therapist, the family as a whole, and the therapist-client relationship.

Additionally, this process offers a method for obtaining family data that goes well beyond simple paper-pencil measures - allowing theoreticians, researchers, and practitioners to collect data on a wide range of family types and cultures that may be inaccessible when using more traditional, paper-pencil measures. Finally, the FAST accesses information about families using constructs that are now easily recognizable within various health professions. In this regard, the data can be disseminated in ways that benefit interdisciplinary work of a scholarly and/or clinical nature.

As an action-oriented instrument that can be used with clients from childhood through adulthood, the FAST is an easy to administer, lively activity that can enhance the interactive process of therapy by stimulating family dialog, interaction, and reflection. The activity of placing figures on the board generates great interaction among family members, which can be a rich source of clinical data for the therapist as well as for the family. For example, observing the activity, scoring the results, and discussing the meaning of all this can assist the therapist and the family to hypothesize about treatment prognosis, plan systematic interventions, and monitor structural transformations as these occur over the course of therapy.

The two theories which underlie the construction of the FAST- structural and developmental - have often been difficult to translate into concrete learning experiences for students and supervisees. Teachers and supervisors can use the FAST to help trainees learn and comprehend the complexities of family dynamics in a way that is simple without being overly simplistic. Further, it can be used by supervisors as a tracking and monitoring tool during the supervision process.

The FAST also has tremendous research potential. The psychometric properties of this instrument are among the highest for figure-placement techniques. The quantitative and qualitative data it generate can be used to measure changes in the family organization before, during, and after treatment. Further, it offers the family researcher an interdisciplinary tool that can be used for diagnostic, process, and outcome-oriented research.

If you are interested in applying, teaching, and researching the effectiveness of structural or developmental family therapy, the FAST is one tool that can be used to advance your efforts in this area. I believe the FAST will assume a significant position in the figure-placement technique field and will become an invaluable tool in our efforts to translate systems and developmental theory into practice.

Sandra A. Rigazio-DiGilio
School of Family Studies
University of Connecticut
Storrs, Connecticut

Preface to the original German edition
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The first clinical pilot studies with the Family System Test (FAST) were conducted in the Outpatient Clinic of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Zurich in the early 1980s. These showed that the FAST, a three-dimensional figure placement technique, provided an economical method of representing relational structures, and that it stimulated respondents to reflect upon the relationships in their families. This encouraged me to further development of the FAST using theoretical test criteria. Financial support from the Swiss National Research Foundation enabled me to conduct validation studies with nonclinical families at the Department of Psychology as well as at the Center for the Study of Families at Stanford University from 1985 to 1988. Upon returning to Switzerland, l focused my research again on clinical families and their development in terms of systemic problem-solving processes.

This manual contains the guidelines for conducting and scoring the FAST in clinical practice and research. In addition, it presents several validation studies with single respondents and families as well as clinical case examples. In my effort to further refine this diagnostic and therapeutic instrument, I welcome all comments, criticisms, and ideas, regardless of the reader's theoretical or clinical background.

Thomas M. Gehring
University of Zurich
October 1992

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There are many colleagues whom I would like to thank for their support in the development of the FAST. I am especially indebted to the former directors of the Child Psychiatric Outpatient Clinic at the University of Zurich, Prof. R. Corboz and Prof. H. Kind, as well as the present director, Prof. H.-Ch. Steinhausen, and the former head of staff, Dr. M. von Aster. They enabled me to pursue my research interests alongside my duties at the clinic. l would like to express my thanks to Dr. R. Schultheiss and Dr. I. Wyler for actively supporting my plans to develop a practice-oriented family test. Prof. W. Felder and Dr. K. Schürmann encouraged the clinical application of the FAST, for which I am most grateful. Prof. S. S. Feldman, Dr. U. Funk, and J. A. Munson provided valuable assistance with the methodology of the California studies. l would also like to acknowledge my debt to Prof. M. Debry (University of Liege, Belgium), Prof. P. K. Smith (University of London, UK), and Prof. T. Hatta (Nagoya University, Japan) whose outstanding studies and collaboration promoted the development and international use of the FAST as a clinical and research tool. Special thanks are due to my friend and former colleague Dr. D. Marti for his creativity and involvement in the Swiss studies. l am also obliged to the many research assistants without whose enthusiastic support the time-consuming test series in California and Switzerland would not have been possible. While writing the original German manual I received much helpful criticism and advice from A. Toygar, St. Mezger, Dr. M. Reitzle, and P. Morf. I am also grateful to G. Tinger of the Beltz Test Gesellschaft for his flexibility and valuable feedback on the first draft of the manual. l would like to express my gratitude to the hundreds of respondents whose participation in the tests and whose openness in representing their families provided an invaluable contribution to the success of this work.

My special thanks to Anita Arnone-Reitzle for the English translation of the original German manuscript. Finally, l would like to express my appreciation to Hogrefe & Huber Publishers for making the FAST available to English-speaking clinicians and researchers.

Thomas M. Gehring
University of Zurich
June 1998