The Contextual Approach

The contextual approach was developed by Iván Böszörményi-Nagy (a Hungarian-American psychiatrist and psychotherapist 1920-2007) from individual and system based family therapy.

Placing the field within regular school guidance:


The term 'context' is used to indicate the dynamic relationship of a person with his or her meaningful relationships across the generations, to the past and future.

It's about the dynamics between the parents (at home), their children (students) and the people at school.


Key elements of the contextual approach

  • Injustice
  • Giving recognition
  • Trust
  • Mutual support
  • Loyalty
    • Vertical loyalty
    • Horizontal loyalty

Further reading regarding the work of Nagy available on

Intensive Family Therapy: Theoretical and Practical Aspects (1965, 1985) with James Framo
Invisible Loyalties: Reciprocity in Intergeneratinal Family Therapy (1973, 1984) with Geraldine Spark
Between Give and Take: A Clinical Guide to Contextual Therapy (1986) with Barbara Krasner
Foundations of Contextual Therapy: Collected Papers of Ivan Boszormeyi-Naga (1987)

In particular, 'Invisible Loyalties' has been a strong and continuing influence on the understanding and practice of large numbers of therapists.

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