Guidelines for using the website with links to films with Tom Andersen:

The purpose of this site where our films with Tom Andersen are published is to convey some of his thoughts as an important and valuable contribution on many levels. The material is published online with permission from his children. The permission for the first publication in 2011 from his widow and other participants in the films is continued. All that is on the website is protected by the current law on copyright in the intellectual property - TheCopyright Act. This means, among other things, that it is prohibited to publish photos and films from the website. Furthermore, all the material is obtained,processed and stored in accordance with the requirements of the Personal DataAct. By using the website you confirm that you will respect the applicable regulations. We are grateful to the Norwegian Family TherapyAssociation for financial contributions to the preparation of the films for publication online. ©2019

Tom Andersen

Tom Andersen

was born on May 2nd 1936 and died May 15th 2007.

He became Bachelor of Medicine in 1961, took his doctorate in 1978, and was appointed Professor in Social Psychiatry in Tromsø in 1981.

Tom Andersen developed the method of “Reflecting Teams”, which was inspired by constructivism and cooperation-oriented, language-systemic therapy. He is specially known for his contribution to family therapy (Wikipedia).

The Tom Andersen films

The people behind this filma bout Tom Andersen are the Physiotherapists, Ingeborg Hanssen, Berit Ianssen, Ingar Kvebæk, Alette Ottesen, Eli Rongved and Gudrun Øvreberg.

Gudrun Øvreberg began her cooperation with Tom Andersen in 1973, while the others joined after completing additional training in Psychomotor Physiotherapy at Øvreberg’s clinic inHarstad. In 1997 we jointly published the book Bevegelse, liv og forandring (Movements of life) (CappelenAkademiske Forlag).

After a while we realised that we wanted to make a film with Tom Andersen. Professional reflection through his conversations and company over the years had been immensely significant to us.They gave us an opportunity to continuously reflect upon our own practice, dialogues,language and the major questions in life. Making a film could be a way of capturing a few of these moments and help spread some of his thoughts.

While still working to finance the film project, we decided to make some trial recordings. Berit Ianssen and photographer Eva Charlotte Nilsen visited Tom Andersen and his wife AnneHofgaard in late January 2006.  After Eva and Tom had spoken for a few hours, identifying some critical points, a camera was rigged beside the dinner table. Tom sat down on the other side of the table, and recording started withEva as conversation partner. After a while, Berit sat down with Tom, and their conversation was filmed.  Eva was later present at a seminar for family therapists at Vettre in Asker, where Tom was to give a lecture. Eva filmed this lecture and Tom’s answers to questions from the participants.  

Tom passed away in May 2007.

After some consideration, we decided to edit the material we had. We were in the middle of a major film project about Physiotherapist Gudrun Øvreberg’s practice, so it took time to complete the editing of the material about Tom.

When people pass away, the essence of what they stood for sometimes becomes clearer. While working on the film, many pages we have written to each other have resurfaced, acquiring new meaning in afterthought.

After Eva and Berit visited Tom, he wrote some notes to the group:

It all depends on the financing, of course, but I’m thinking about WHERE the film could be recorded: in the mountains outside Tromsø; skiing somewhere where you can both see the ocean and hear it; maybe have Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms as background music. And suddenly, over the crest of the hill, a skier approaches,swiftly and ably; Gudrun, who stops for a chat!

Or maybe outside our summer home in Southern Norway, the last cliffs before you reach Denmark, where both Terje Vigen and the lord came past (a poem by HenrikIbsen, author’s  note). Where it’s possible to speak and regard an ocean that NEVER is at rest; it’s in constant motion, sweeping your thoughts with it. Not far away, all the rest of you could be chatting with Gudrun.

The background music could be Bach’s motets or something slow and quiet by Arvo Pärt, maybe Alina, or Psalom from Litany. I also thought about June 1st in Tromsø, where John Schotter and I are to go “on stage” once more, hopefully in front of a critical, academic audience. He’s helping expand much of the audiovisualsI’m showing these days with the aid of texts particularly by Wittgenstein,Bakhtin and Merleau Ponty.

In my counselling work, I emphasise sticking to expressed words, meaning words that I SEE have a reflective effect on those who express them. I never start by commenting the patient’s expression, unless the comment is immediately followed up by other words. I would never say, “You look so sad” etc.  At least not in a professional setting. Maybe in private, to someone I know very well, who trusts me (but how can you tell?).

SoI don’t start with the feelings in the patients’ expressions, though they obviously always are there.

After the meeting with Berit and Eva, I’ve spent plenty of time thinking, and also gone skiing with my childhood friends. And while struggling along the trail, it struck me that the muscles you squeeze and ease are all somehow connected to breathing – opening up, stretching out, dangling; you always work directly with breath (emotions). You go via the outer “edge” of respiration. Or am I wrong?

ThenI thought, maybe I should ONLY have worked with you? It’s always been one of the many points of doubt (Tom; Thomas – the doubtful one and/or Gemini). In other moments I thought about how good it is to have such a wide range of tools;the body (various forms of bodies) and dialogue (various exchanges through dialogue).

That’s how it is.

Farewell,or as well as possible!

PS!My second name is David (Tom David) after my father. David, the Hebrew king,encouraged harp playing. His reputation as a warrior, defeating Goliath, wasn’t it with a slingshot? Found himself in opposition to the current ruler. A skilled manager, but tradition has focused on his talents as a warrior and an artist. In Hebrew, the name means “friend” or “beloved”.  Thought to be the author of many of the psalms in the Book of Psalms and elsewhere in the Old Testament, making no attempt to conceal the flaws in his character.


Goliath;Philistine giant struck down by the young herdsman David. 
Thomas(Tom, Tommy); Greek, from the Armenian tòmà, “twin”.
One of Jesus’ disciples, portrayed by John as the doubting one.
To sum it up: doubting, twin, beloved, warlike, artistic, character flaws.
Farewell,all of you!



All the years with Tom Andersen, through his conversations and company, gave us an opportunity to continuously reflect upon our own practice as physiotherapists. In our field,the body and movements form the starting point, and we use our hands when exercising our profession. At the same time, conversations are an important and natural part of every consultation.

The body is understood in acontext of lived life, and existential issues are often touched upon as a natural consequence of this. The significant hand that examines, works, listens and waits – does not have a verbal language – a language of words. But the language of skilled hands is still firm and strong.

In the film, Tom compares hands with words – words as practical, meaningful expressions, rather than words as something abstract and intellectual. Thus the language of hands may be compared to the verbal language. The dialogue becomes an interconnected whole of all bodily movement. This makes it possible to work in a way that feels natural,both when exploring the stretch in the knee and talking about what comes up; individually complete in themselves, yet connected.

In a cultural context where words and academic language take the front seat, Tom helped us maintain a grip on the non-verbal side of our everyday practice. Through it, he gave us the courage to continue to develop the artisan aspect of our profession.

Tom Andersen often talked about how he dared remain seated in the room, as one does in a reflecting team.

In the early 1980s, he embarked on a project together with Gudrun Øvreberg that resulted in the book Aadel Bülow-Hansens fysioterapi  (AadelBülow-Hansen’s Physiotherapy). They first filmed Aadel Bülow-Hansen during seven different consultations with seven different patients, then the conversations between Aadel, Gudrun and Tom afterwards. Then everything was written down and published in the form of a book. This was meticulous and time-consuming work – both being present during the consultations, and afterwards writing down everything that was filmed.

Tom was deeply impressed by the way Bülow-Hansen used her eyes and hands, how she constantly monitored the patient’s expression – to know whether, when, where and how she could proceed with the treatment. He introduced this to his own dialogue-based practice by also focusing on expression in a wider sense than the verbal, letting himself be guided by other senses than merely his hearing.

Tom Andersen wrote in “Reflecting Conversations” – my version

(from a chapter in “ReflectingConversations Through 20 Years” editors H. Eliassen and J. Seikkula, Universitetsforlaget,Oslo)

The work on the book took place between 1983 and 1986, and I think Bülow-Hansen’s sensitivity to life“infected” me during the process, and contributed to a change in the body that made it abandon either/or and allow both/and to take its place. And thanks to this we were, in March1985, prepared to put an idea into practice (author’s italicizations).  

This idea first surfaced in1981, during the Milano Group’s first summer gathering on Montisola in LakeIseo in Northern Italy: What was it that made us leave the families and enter our closed rooms to discuss the “interventions” we were to provide them? Why didn’t we instead stay in the room and discuss them with the family present?Maybe following our method of discussing the situation could be of value to them?

 I mentioned the idea to AinaSkorpen, who I was working with at the time, but we didn’t have the courage. We were afraid because we were fairly sure we would say something offensive or hurtful, by talking as we did in the “closed rooms” where the families were not present; “what a talkative chap, what a stubborn woman…” It came to feel quite unpleasant to sit in our “closed room” and talk about the families like this.

Anyway, the idea remained dormant for three and half years, until one Tuesday afternoon in March 1985,when the adequate mixture of faith and doubt, fear and courage, along with a gnawing unease that demanded something new, seemed to have ripened. 

We wish to thank everyone who has made this project possible. The Norwegian PsychomotorPhysiotherapy special interest group of The Norwegian Physiotherapy Association which provided financial support for the actual filming, Eli Rongved, who put us in touch with the photographer and followed up this effort, photographer Eva Charlotte Nilsen who communicated so well with Tom, asked good questions and filmed and edited this material, to the participants at the family seminar who agreed to let us film there, Jaakko Seikkula and Hans Christian Michaelsen for their kind permission to use their material, to Neil Fulton for producing this film,  to translator Erik Groenvold and to John Wilson for his friendly assistance. This English edition of the film has been made possible by financial assistance from the Norwegian Family Therapy Association. We are immensely grateful for their support.

We owe an extra debt of gratitude to Tom’s wife, Anne Hofgaard, who together with Tom opened their home to us in 2006 – and granted us permission to use the material to complete this film. 

Finally, an appreciation to the project group for all your contributions, patience and trust. Tom brought us together through a joint working method that has proven both fertile and durable.

Tom Andersen spent much of his life meeting people abroad. His presence on the international arena became immensely significant for the people he met. Making this film accessible internationally may hopefully serve to extend his efforts. It may become a starting point for reflection and conversation for both groups and individuals.


Berit Ianssen

Project manager