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December 1972

Excommunication as a Family Therapy Technique

Author Affiliations

Jerusalem, Israel
From the Department of Child Psychiatry, Hadassah University Hospital, Jerusalem, Israel.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1972;27(6):804-808. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1972.01750300066011

Excommunication is a dramatic method of social control, typically used to extrude a deviant member of society until he is willing to declare his reacceptance of the values he has transgressed. As an active, intentional isolation technique, excommunication can be utilized in family therapy with severely conflicted families, especially those marked by extreme parental schism that undermines and sabotages all attempts at mutual cooperation in the socialization and control of a deviant child. In illustrating its usefulness, we have tried to demonstrate the positive impact it can have on all family members— as a distancing and individuating experience for the family-enmeshed child, and as a paradoxical, change-producing path to reciprocity between conflict-torn parents.