The collaborative language systems approach is based on the premise that problems are maintained in language by a problem-derived system and can be resolved through conversation. A collaborative conversation is not possible when the therapist assumes the role of the expert. This type of therapy approach presumes that conversation generates meaning, both for clients and in their relationship with their therapist.
According to this view, therapy is understood as a process of caring, empathic conversations within which clients can derive new meanings. Rather than focus on the person who supposedly has the problem Collaborative therapy focus on the people who view the situation as a problem with the system member. This can be a family member, a friend, or someone from the community. People are part of the problem if they are involved in the conversation describing the problem.
The therapist, in the role of an active, responsive listener, asks conversational questions that stimulate clients to view the problem in a new light. The system creates the problem, thus the system is organized around the problem. The problem-determined system eventually dissolves as clients and therapists generate new meanings about the problem and clients take new actions to resolve it. Problems are not solved or cured in this model; they are dissolved through conversation and working on the system around the problem. Once the problem is dissolved, the system that was organized around it also dissolves.
Collaborative couples therapy (CCT) addresses the intrinsic difficulty of being in a relationship. In CCT, the therapist helps the couple learn to communicate by discovering and identifying the predominant thought or feeling of the moment, so that they can shift out of their withdrawn or adversarial cycle and into a collaborative one. The goal of CCT is to increase the couple's ability to make such a shift. CCT emerges out of the realization that the inner atmosphere of a relationship is continually changing and that it is possible at any moment to capture an intimacy intrinsic to that moment and thus to create a collaborative cycle.
The therapist and client/family are partners in collaboration to help determine the need for therapy. The therapist guides the therapeutic conversation and process, while the family members are the experts on their personal experiences. The therapist maintains a 'not knowing,' curious, respectful and collaborative attitude, inviting clients to find the resources within themselves to change. In this way, therapist and family become conversational partners and, through language, co-create alternative narratives.