Gianfranco Cecchin

Following his medicine degree attained at the University of Padova he specialises in psychiatry at the Grasslands Hospital in Westchester county, New York. Subsequently, he continues his training, at the Long Island “Hillside” Medical Centre in New York, with a fellowship in developmental psychiatry. Finally, he becomes an associate in the psychiatric ward of the “High Point” Hospital in Portchester, New York.
At the end of the sixties he returns to Italy and opens his own private practice as well as joining Mara Selvini Palazzoli, Giuliana Prata and his friend Luigi Boscolo in their endeavour with brief psychotherapy. Nonetheless, due to disagreements, concerning both theoretical as well as practical issues about the execution of the therapeutic sessions, Cecchin together with Boscolo found the Systemic-Relational therapy, inspired by Gregory Bateson, that is today known as the “Milan Approach ©”.

In 1981 the Milanese Centre of Family Therapy (CMTF) was born, Cecchin’s ideas distinguished them-selves through curiosity, and irreverence. The conception of curiosity came about due to the dissatisfaction with neutrality, a concept of psychoanalytic nature, which is maintained in key instances. It must be noted that many of the characteristic writings relating to Boscolo may also be considered true concerning Cecchin, as the focal point of their thoughts originate from the notion of a shared experience.

Starting from the nineties, while Boscolo was delving into the theme of time as well as resuming a past reflection on psychoanalytic practice through The Art of the Lenses, Cecchin focused on the themes of prejudice and irreverence. He unconventionally defined the later as irreverence that is irreverent towards one’s own irreverence.

Subsequently, his thoughts show a closeness to Derrida’s deconstructionism as well as to Lyotard’s postmodernism. Additionally, commonly nested in conversationalism and the narrative approach he often states his tenacious trust in the systemic prejudice (subsequently, he would jokingly claim his “systemic fundamentalism”). Indeed, his final writings shared greater closeness to the thoughts of Heinz von Foerster and a praise to imperfection.

Gianfranco Cecchin died on the 2nd February 2004 in an automotive accident.

Grianfranco Cecchin

We always talked about families, the students talked about the therapists, thus we were compelled to observe our behaviour.


  • Luigi Boscolo, Gianfranco Cecchin, Lynn Hoffmann, Peggy Penn (1987), “Milan systemic family therapy. Conversations in Theory and ractice“. Basic Books, N.Y.. Trad. it: “Clinica Sistemica”, a cura di Paolo Bertrando. Bollati Boringhieri 2004.
  • Luigi Boscolo e Gianfranco Cecchin (1988), “Il problema della diagnosi dal punto di vista sistemico”. Psicobiettivo, 3/1988
  • Gianfranco Cecchin, Gerry Lane, Wendel A. Ray (1992), The cybernetics of prejudices in the practice of psycotherapy– Karnac books ltd. London.
  • Gianfranco Cecchin, Gerry Lane, Wendel A. Ray (1992), Irreverence. A Strategy for Therapist’s Survival. Karnac Books, London. Trad. it. Irriverenza: Una strategia di sopravvivenza per i terapeuti. Franco Angeli Ed., Milano.
  • Gianfranco Cecchin, Gerry Lane, Wendel A. Ray (1997), Verità e pregiudizi. Un approccio sistemico alla psicoterapia– Raffaello Cortina Editore, Milano.
  • Gianfranco Cecchin e Tiziano Apolloni (2003), “Idee perfette. Hybris delle prigioni della mente“. Franco Angeli Ed., Milano.
  • Gianfranco Cecchin, Pietro Barbetta, Dario Toffanetti (2005), “Who was von Foerster, anyway?”. Kybernetes: The International Journal of Systems & Cybernetics, vol. 34 Nr. 3/4, pp. 330-342.

A conversation about time