This website was created as a result of meetings, enthusiasm, energy and new thoughts. Since late seventies I studied epistemology and the systemic model as a framework to act professionally, then as a framework to meet the day. This means striving to link the events together and encourage the awareness to choose how to interpret what happens.

In 2003 I published, with Luca Casadio, a dictionary of epistemology – Systemic, voices and paths in complexity, Bollati Boringhieri, Turin – which was the result of a collective work and was supervised by Heinz von Forester, my mentor. A great job that was created through common interaction, thanks to all those who have generously agreed to participate: epistemological and clinical friends I met in my life, with whom I exchanged references and interwove narratives. Pleasant stories, sometimes stormy. Today I think of something similar for this website, which I hope will become a space to reason together and to deepen thinking and practices. This website aims to provide a grid of interpretation and a space made available to reason together. This is a bet. I’m not sure to succeed, but I hope to. YES, I SINCERELY DO HOPE SO.

Institutional events, individuals, firms, politics, ecology, families are all different meaningful context which we can study applying the systemic paradigm. This grid to decode the world asks not to fragment what we study nor any interpretation; to respect subjectivity and multiplicity; it demands to give attention to the dense relationship with the context and to make transdisciplinarity the attitude for inquiry. Systemic thinking has a privileged focus on context and relationship and underlines the importance of thinking about thinking, combining information, questioning and exploring one’s own assumptions as well as the others. It favors a self reflexive stance and the necessity to consider blind spots in a continual process of self-reorganization, in interaction with what happens. Systemic epistemology does not propose an exhaustive frame nor a determined stance. It proposes a way to observe, a stance and an operative attitude which, keeping steady the elements considered, changes the way to assemble them, offers new metaphors and new gestalt. It allows to organize know how in different forms.

For many years Heinz von Foerster has insisted that a systemic process should parallel the scientific model, so to take advantage of the possibility of using both modalities – different and complementary – to understand understanding. One proposes to divide (ski: to divide), the other to put together (sun: to conjunct).

The ambition is one of following the plot of the discourse of these new times, giving hints, launching stimuli, proposing ideas. I hope in mails, notations, contributions consequent to meetings and encounters. I hope to add pictures remembering places where we meet, recalling old times and speculating over the future. To add comments. I confide in friends who send me their writings but also gags, funny stories, anecdotes.

I guess my systemic guardian angel, Heinz von Foerster – that for the book has been an active partner and discussor – in this case will be present through memories which will give me the energy he had and that I sometimes criticized. I criticized him though he could always see the bright side of everything, find resources where I saw only obstacles, seeming too positively excited. At the time I still liked playing with the abyss. But I was young, too young to appreciate life as he liked it. Now I’m learning. He continues living in his writings and through the memories that those who knew him constantly exchange and renew. He is an example for the rigor and the enthusiasm he put into his constant inquiry on the world and on the facts of life. I met him in Milano for the very important conference organized by Mauro Ceruti and Gianluca Bocchi (Beyond Complexity 1980, where all the thinkers on complexity were invited for the first time in Italy), I then translated him in Modena, we connected and I tried to meet him every time he would come to Europe. He become my mentor and a dear friend.

Not only will he be “behind” this website, I feel many people as mentors and helpers: all the people I met in my professional career and beyond. There is Harry Aponte who welcomed me at the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic, betting on me and accepting me at the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic as an intern; Lynn Hoffman that I met over the years many times: in Philadelphia, New York (at the Akerman Institute with Peggy Penn, Kitty La Perriere and Olga Silverstein), at a Gordon Conference upstate N.Y. , in Roma, Oporto and Lisbon. The most important occasion together happened  in Milan, where together we made for the first time the experience of reflecting behind the one-way mirror of the Milan group, when they still worked all four together in an incredibly interesting and revolutional way. There are Luigi Boscolo and Gianfranco Cecchin who accepted me in their school as a teacher in training then as a teacher and a collegue: many dialogues took place in the bar Virgilio, in Milano, afterwork, trying to avoid to slip speaking about politics, since we would all become very involved and would discuss with animation. I lovingly remember Jay Haley and his blue, ironic eyes: he taught us students all the ability to smile; Braulio Montalvo, great clinician, always a little sheltered in our field but a skilled decoder of systemic contexts, he forced me to consider them with respect and forty years later to wright a book which honors them (2011);  Salvator Minuchin: I was so scared in group supervision with him I would sleep poorly the night before. If you did not include yourself in the genogram of the family drawn on the board he would interrupt the supervision and go to another clinical situation. I recall Bradford Keeney with his hyperactive brain and his book Aesthetics of change, which still remains one of the best systemic books in circulation. I met him in a rany night in New York with Boscolo and Cecchin and we spent the night intensly exchanging ideas, all four of us, ending the night in a jazz cantine; Carl Whitaker – who welcomed me into his family every dinner while I was in Wisconsin in 1976 for a period of study, questioning his father over death “because he was certainly more experienced since nearer to the happening”; Marianne Walters that has pushed female trainees of the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic to deal with gender issues (it was the late 70s) and that inspired me to follow a feminist group for about ten years, once back in Italy; Carlos Sluskiwith our mutual respect and many jokes exchanged. He introduced me to Heinz von Foerster and to second order processes. Mara Selvini Palazzoli and her courage to change ideas and walk new paths, Giuliana Prata always respectful of the work of others; Doctor Potash “THE” Philadelphia Child Guidance psychoanalyst, who believed in me, accepted me as his client and taught me to decode my mind and soul. Sam Scott, who explored the world of the deaf and could laugh with them and demonstrate his appreciation in sign language; Bernice Rosman and lazy Sundays with Jody Shore, Jay Jamail, Mary Reeves and Susan Bogas around her desk, laughing and talking seriously; Henry Bergerand Charles Fishman and their profound attitude towards work; Theo Compernolle a friend from Holand, Marcelo Pakman with our common latin background. There are then the clinicians who influenced me indirectly through their writings and brief encounters over the years. Among many Kyriaki PolychroniJuan Luis Linares, Monica McGoldrick, Froma Walsh, Mary Olson, Sheila McNamee, Joel Bergman, Moni Elkaim,  Michele Mestre, Edith Goldbeter, Peter Stratton, Maria Borcsa, Hans Christian Michaelswen, Arlene Vetere, Juan Linares, Phil Kearney, Joakko Seikkula, Eduardo Villar, Robert Neuburger, Stephen Madigan, Robin Routledge, John Shotter, Mary and Ken Gergen,Rocio Chaveste Gutierrez and Papusa Molina, Nora Bateson, Ellen Landis, Marilene Grandesso.  And the new good friends the canadian Chris Kinman who has been working with Lynn Hoffman for a long time and the californian Alfonso Montuori, interested in speculating the future. there is then

There are Mauro Ceruti who alphabetized me to epistemology and Gianluca Bocchi and his transdisciplinary mind: where you touch him he makes music! There are Donata Fabbri, Alberto Munari, Fulvio Carmagnola and Telmo Pievani. Ernst von Glasersfeldwith whom I spent an unforgettable afternoon at the Etruscan Museum of Rome with my son – then aproximatly one year – experimenting Piagetian tests, utilizing leafs, stones and wather; Humberto Maturana, with whom once among many encounters I traveled by train to go to a conference in St. Gallen speaking of the full moon; Francisco Varela who I first met at the Spoleto Scienza event, when around a table in the piazza del Duomo we did the wee hours speculating on the nature of human becomings (Heinz, Lorena Preta, Gianni Vattimo, Aldo Giorgio Gargani, Pino Donghi spoke, I absorbed every ounce, every stimulus), Gordon Pask with his bat like black capes and his wild eyes; Gregory Bateson, who came to Philadelphia to encounter Haley. Often the two invited the interns available  to lunch. Lunches were frustrating for me by what I felt afterwards: he reasoned with an abductive thinking, I felt that I did not have to lose even an ounce of his reasoning and was very concentrated. These two different ways of being made so that I could not follow him and felt more and more stupid. Margaret Mead, whom I met at the conference Beyond the double bind, 20 years laterin New York (1977) when, sitting next to me with a long shamanic stick in her hands, would interrupt Bateson’s speech in order to give her interpretation.  Milton Erickson who I went to meet in Phoenix, Arizona, wearing a purple scarf to honor him and allow him to get away from his white and black world vision since he was colour blind. from the minute I bought the tiket to go and meet him I started loosing weight while before I was only gaining it. Also Margaret Mahler will influence indirectly this website since she personally told me – at the party for her 80th birthday to which I attended by chance brought by Anni Bergman, a common friend – that if she was young she would have studies family therapy.

There are colleagues in America and Europe, the post milan teams, groups of pears with whom I met for conferences and very jolly spirits in various parts of the globe: the Swedish group (Mia Andersson, Ernst  Salamon, Klas Grevelius ), Irish (Imelda McCarthy,Nollaig Byrne, Philip Kearney), Norwegian (Tom Andersen, Marie Flack), the group of Calgary (Karl Tomm,), the one in London (David Campbell, Elsa Jones, Ros Draper,  John Burnham), the one in Cardiff (Philippa Selligman, Brian Cade, Bebe Speed), Galveston (Harlene Anderson, Harry Goolishian), the KCC in L0ndon (Peter Lang, Martin Little, Elsbeth McAdam), The Marlborough Family Center again in London (Eia Asen and his colleagues), the Portugal gang (Helena Marujo and Luis Miguel Neto). I am thankful to Moni Elkaim that with sneakers and his bulk always played the part of the transgressive, to Philippe Caille from whom I was literate to work with couples, to Michael White who I didn’t personally meet despite I translated in 1992 his writings for an Italian publisher (La terapia come narrazione, Astrolabio, Roma). I desire to quote also the Italian systemic milanese groups: i bolognesi (Laura Fruggeri, Anna Castellucci, Massimo Matteini, Maurizio Marzari), the Padua group (Andrea Mosconi, Pio Peruzzi, Maurizio Viaro), the Turin one (Marco Bianciardi ), the Genovesi (Lia Mastropaolo and Piergiorgio Semboloni), the Milan group (Pietro Barbetta – actual director – Gabriela Boi,  Cristina Koch and others), the Modena group (Mauro Mariotti and  Fabio Bassoli). These are my firs generation collegues. Then came the staff of the centres opened later and the second generation teachers: Piero Sannasardo in  Sicily, Piero Muraro and Manuela Bertocchi in Treviso, Massimo Schinco, Antonio Caruso, Andrea Cazzaniga, Massimo Giuliani in Milano, Paolo Sacchetti in Bologna, Igino Bozzetto, Osvaldo Galvano, Roberta Marchiori in Padua. I know them all from the ‘80 and we still keep in touch and love having fun together, but also speak seriously about work.

There are of course all the Italian colleagues with whom from the 70s we pased time, thinking and doing, with whom we exchanged ideas and opinions, linked by a mutual respect that is increasing over time. This concerns the colleagues of the Milanese school and the colleagues from the other Italian schools. I can’t mention them all, I do not want to hurt anyone and the list is too long. Allow me some memories: Giovanna Todini with whom I spent some years at the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic and has remained a dear friend and respected collegue; Corrado Pontalti and the clinical work we did together with schizophrenic families, adding an anthropological glance; Maurizio Andolfi and I going to Washington to meet with Murray Bowen; Carmine Saccu playing guitar still without Nanà in his lap;  Camillo Loriedo, highly respected collegue who was near me in a personal difficult moment; Angela Raschellà who taught me to write; Paolo Bonizzoni: we were both interested in Neurolinguistics Programming, and we taught it to our students in order to deepen our understanding;  Valeria Ugazio and her intensity in discussing crucial themes; Dante Ghezzi with whom I shared the experience of ruling the Italian Society of Systemic Research and Therapy (SIRTS); Luca Casadio with whom I co-authored the book Sistemica; Carla de Toffoli and Piero Bellanova, my personal psychoanalists in two very different periods of my life. And also Stefano Cirillo, Antonello D’Elia, Rodolfo de Bernhart, Anna La Mesa, Alfredo Ancora, Antonello D’Elia, Claudio Angelo, Grazia Attili, Paola D’Atena, Cristina Dobrowolsky, Donata Francescato, Gianmarco Manfrida, Silvia Mazzoni,, Patrizia Petiva, Ruggero Piperno, Alessandra Salerno,Alfredo Canevaro, Vittorio Cigoli and many many more …

Last but not least, who am I? Umberta Telfener, I am a systemic clinical psychologist working in private practice and teaching at the Health Psychology Post Graduate Course of the University La Sapienza of Roma (Italy). Graduated both in Psychology and Philosophy, I worked for ten years in a public Mental Health Center in Roma and now I supervise public and private setting around Italy and teach many seminars. A book of mine came out in Italian il 2011,  Apprendere i contesti, strategie per inserirsi in nuovi ambiti di lavoro (Learning context, strategies to inhabit new work settings) Cortina editore, Milano 2011 and in 2014 with Marco Bianciardi Psicoterapuia come pratica ricursiva (Psychotherapy as a reflexive process) which we wanted to call Il cantastorie volante, The flying storyteller, but the publishng company Bollati Boringhieri did not like. I also wrote some books on love relationships and on the love dance: Ho sposato un narciso (2006), Le forme dell’addio (2008)  both published by Castelvecchi editore, Gli amori briciola, Magi editore 2013, La manutenzione dell’amore, Castelvecchi 2015. In this site there are many articles in Italian and foreign journals. I answer love issue mails and have a cinema/psychology blog section in I deeply desired this website with the purpose to contact friends and new collegues and will carry it on in italian, english and spanish. Who is interested can also go to the other website I partecipate to: 

I have to agnowledge the importance of the many clients I saw in all my clinical practice in years and of the collegues I have supervised aroun Italy. Thank to all of them for what they tought me and  for the conversations we shared!!! Thank you to my son and to the  moments he connects with me, they are precious



Parlando del sito:

Questo website è nato a seguito di incontri, entusiasmi, ripensamenti e nuove energie. Da tanti anni mi occupo di epistemologia (dal 1983) e del modello sistemico come cornice per intervenire professionalmente e, piano piano, anche come cornice per vivere il quotidiano. Questo significa sforzarsi di collegare gli eventi tra loro e favorire la consapevolezza di scegliere come interpretare ciò che accade.

Nel 2003 ho pubblicato un dizionario di epistemologia (Sistemica, voci e percorsi  nella complessità, Bollati Boringhieri, Torino)  che è stato frutto di un lavoro collettivo. Un lavoro grande che è nato grazie all’interazione comune, grazie a tutti coloro che hanno accettato generosamente di partecipare: amici epistemologi e clinici che ho incontrato nella mia vita, con cui ho scambiato riferimenti e intessuto narrazioni piacevoli e a volte burrascose. Oggi penso ad un’operazione simile anche per questo sito, che  spero diventi uno spazio per ragionare insieme e per approfondire. Questo sito vuole offrire  una griglia di interpretazione e uno spazio messo a disposizione per ragionare insieme. Si tratta di una scommessa. Non sono sicura di riuscirci, ma spero di SI.

Mi immagino un filo lasso che però non si spezza. Spero in  mail, notazioni, contributi a seguito di incontri, spero in foto e commenti aggiunti, in amici che mi inviano loro scritti, in luoghi dove ci incontriamo ricordando i vecchi tempi e speculando sul futuro. Mi immagino che il mio angelo custode sistemico, Heinz von Foerster – che per il libro è stato un interlocutore attivo e molto presente – in questo caso nel ricordo mi dia l’energia che lui aveva e che io a volte criticavo. Lo criticavo benché riuscisse  sempre e comunque a vedere il lato positivo di qualsiasi cosa, a trovare risorse dove io vedevo solo ostacoli: mi sembrava troppo entusiasta, ancora mi piaceva giocare con gli abissi. Ma ero giovane, troppo giovane per apprezzare la vita come la apprezzava lui. Ora sto imparando. Lui continua, con i suoi scritti e con i ricordi che chi lo ha conosciuto costantemente si scambia e rinnova, ad essere di esempio per il rigore e l’entusiasmo che metteva nell’inquiry costante sul mondo e sui fatti della vita. Non c’è comunque solo lui dietro a questo sito, ci sono le persone che ho conosciuto nel percorso professionale e non solo. C’è Harry Aponte che mi ha accolto alla Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic, scommettendo su di me; c’è Lynn Hoffman che ho incontrato negli anni a Filadelfia, poi a New York (Akerman Institute) e poi a Milano dove insieme abbiamo fatto l’esperienza di stare dietro allo specchio del gruppo di Milano quando ancora lavoravano tutti insieme; ci sono naturalmente Luigi BoscoloGianfranco Cecchin   , c’è Jay Haley e i suoi occhi azzurri, ironici, che insegnavano a tutti noi il distacco e la capacità di sorridere; c’è Bralio Montalvo, uomo fantastico e un po’ defilato nel nostro campo sistemico ma abilissimo lettore di contesti;  c’è Salvator Minuchin che mi faceva tanta paura nelle supervisioni perché se non ti includevi nel genogramma della famiglia interrompeva il ragionamento e passava ad altro. Ci sono Bradford Keeney con la sua iperattività e il suo libro Estetica del cambiamento, che ancora resta uno dei migliori libri di TdS in circolazione; Carl Whitaker  – che mi ha accolto nella sua famiglia a cena, quando interrogava il padre sulla morte “perché era certamente più esperto di lui in quanto più prossimo”; Marianne Walters che ci spingeva già alla Child Guidance ad occuparci di genere (era la fine degli anni ’70) e che mi ha ispirato a fare un piccolo gruppo femminista per circa otto anni, una volta tornata in Italia. Mara Selvini Palazzoli   Giuliana Prata Potash lo psicoanalista della Philadelphia Child Guidance che credeva in me e mi ha alfabetizzato alla mente. Ernst von Glasersfeld con cui ho passato un’indimenticabile pomeriggio al museo etrusco di Roma facendo con mio figlio esperimenti piagettiani con foglie e sassolini vicino ad una fontata (venticinque anni fa!); Humberto Maturana con cui ho fatto tra gli altri incontri un viaggio in treno per andare ad un convegno a Sant Gallen parlando della luna; Francisco Varela che ho incontrato una prima volta a Spoleto Scienza quando attorno ad un tavolo nella piazza del Duomo facevamo le ore piccole ragionando sulla natura dell’uomo (Heinz, Lorena Preta, Gianni Vattimo, Aldo Giorgio Gargani, Pino Donghi parlavano, io assorbivo ogni oncia, ogni stimolo); Gordon Pask con le sue mantelle nere da pipistrello e i suoi occhi spiritati; Gregory Bateson che veniva a Filadelfia a trovare Haley e invitava anche i tirocinanti a pranzo. Erano pranzi dai quali uscivo frustrata: lui ragionava con un pensiero abduttivo che passava di palo in frasca ed io che mi sentivo di non dover perdere neppure un oncia del suo ragionamento non riuscivo a seguirlo e mi sentivo sempre più stupida.  Margaret Mead che ho incontrato ad un convegno (Beyond the double bind, 20 years later) a New York quando dal pubblico, seduta vicino a me con un lungo bastone sciamanico in mano, azzittiva Bateson che parlava per raccontare la propria interpretazione. Forse influenzerà questo sito anche Margaret Mahler, al cui compleanno degli ottanta anni mi sono trovata per caso.

Ci sono i colleghi europei, i post milan groups, con cui ci incontravamo per convegni molto alcolici e ridanciani in varie parti del globo. Il gruppo svedese (Mia Anderson ), irlandese (Imelda McCarthy, ), norvegese (Tom Andersen, Flack), il gruppo di Calgary (Karl Tomm, ), quello di Galveston (Harry Goolishian, Arlene Andersen), il KCC (Peter Lang, Peter Little, Elsbeth McAdam), Il Malborough Family Center (Eia Asen e i suoi colleghi), Moni Elkaim che con le scarpe da ginnastica e la sua mole giocava sempre la parte del trasgressivo,  Philippe Caillé che mi ha alfabetizzato al lavoro con le coppie, Michael White che non ho mai conosciuto personalmente ma di cui ho curato gli scritti per Astrolabio nel 19xx (La terapia come narrazione, Astrolabio, Roma). Ma anche i gruppi bolognese (Laura Fruggeri, Anna Castellucci, Massimo Matteini, Maurizio Marzari), padovano (Andrea Mosconi, Pio Peruzzi, Maurizio Viaro), genovese (Lia Mastropaolo e Piergiorgio Semboloni), milanese (Pietro Barbetta, attuale presidente, Gabriela Boi e altri) . Li conosco tutti dal 1980 e continuiamo a tenerci in contatto.

Ci sono naturalmente tutti i colleghi italiani con cui dagli anni ’70 ci incrociamo e con cui scambiamo idee e opinioni, legati da una stima reciproca che si va sempre più rinsaldando nel tempo. Si tratta sia dei colleghi della scuola milanese nelle diverse sedi sia i colleghi delle altre scuole italiane. Non li nomino perché non voglio far torto a nessuno e la lista sarebbe troppo lunga. Alcuni ricordi concedetemeli: Corrado Pontalti che mi invita dietro lo specchi alla Università Cattolica a vedere famiglie con un membro psicotico, Maurizio Andolfi ed io che andiamo ad incontrare Murray Bowen a Washington, Carmine Saccu che suona la chitarra ancora senza Nanà in braccio, Angela Raschellà che mi insegna a scrivere, Paolo Bonizzoni con cui ci interessiamo per la prima volta di Programmazione Neurolinguistica parlandone insieme ai nostri studenti, Cristina Koch cui mi lega una comune esplorazione e curiosità spirituale, Valeria Ugazio che rispetto e con cui ho discusso di clinica, Dante Ghezzi con cui ho spartito l’esperienza della Presidenza della Società Italiana di Ricerca e Terapia Sistemica,  Luca Casadio con cui ho scritto il libro Sistemica.