Monday, December 26, 2011


NAME OF THEORY:  Family Systems 

BASIC PREMISES AND PHILOSOPHY:  This modality is a holistic shift from an individualistic to a family context perspective and how the systemic perspective affects the conceptualization of healthy human development, a presumed disorder, and appropriate therapeutic intervention. The systemic worldview sees the family as the primary unit and holds that all members of the family are important contributors to clients’ psychological functioning and development. Every family is significantly impacted by the relationships, rules, and roles that are engendered within the larger social systems of which they are a part. Therefore, human interactions are seen as cyclical rather than linear.   

Focus is on the rules of relationships within family systems. A variety of approaches can be used in promoting the family systems style of therapy. Problems are understood in the context of their family systems rather than in terms individual experience alone. Individual problems represent larger family dysfunctions. If any one part of the system is changes it will affect others who are interconnected. 

All therapy is family therapy. Families pass through predictable stages. What the client experiences growing up in their family of origin shapes the way the family evolves in the present. Families organize themselves in order to maintain stability and exist in a cultural context, and human behavior is often triangular. Families get stuck in repetitive patterns. Symptoms that emerge in families are often useful and functional in maintaining their stability.

FOUNDERS OR IMPORTANT CONTRIBUTORS:  Alfred Adler, Lewis Thomas, Norbert Wiener, James Gleick, Edward Lorenz, quantum physicists, Von Bertalanffy, Gregory Bateson, Murray Bowen, Nathan Ackerman, James Framo, Carl Whitaker, Virginia Satir, Salvador Minuchin, Milton Erickson, Jay Haley, Cloe Madanes, Gerald Sue, Paul Pedersen, Allen Ivey Kenneth Gergen, Michael Mahoney, Michael White

COUNSELING GOALS:  Uncover the cyclical influence of the family on clients and understand family dynamics and how these factors play into clients’ issues. Then help clients understand and adapt their reactions to promote healthier interactions with others.

ROLE OF COUNSELOR:  To consider client’s family context when conceptualizing their healthy human development, devising an appropriate therapeutic intervention by examining, and discussing relationship, rules and roles in the family. Establish trusting relationship and explore concerns of clients, formulate assessment and treatment/action plans.

ROLE OF CLIENT:  Be open to exploring relationship of self to own family and exploring how family systems and dynamics affect clients’ issues. 

USEFUL WITH WHAT POPULATIONS AND TYPES OF PROBLEMS:  Families, multicultural clients, for most issues

EXAMPLES OF TECHNIQUES:  Various approaches:  psychoanalytic, humanistic/existential, structural, strategic and multicultural, narrative therapy (externalizing conversations, mapping the influence, unique outcome questions, unique possibilities, restorying), making genograms. Establishing trust seen as fair and objective, maintain control, redefine or reframe the problem, be highly active and directive and assess interactive patterns, keep things moving

TERMS: Continued reciprocal influence, circular causality, rules of relationships, enmeshment, coalitions, life cycle, metaphors, genograms, restorying, psychoanalytic, humanistic/existential, structural approach, strategic and multicultural, structural, strategic, multicultural, constructivist, narrative theory, externalizing conversations, mapping the influence, unique outcome questions, unique possibilities.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saturday, December 10, 2011


A tragic situation exists precisely when virtue does not triumph but when it is still felt that man is nobler than the forces which destroy him.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

THEORY IN BRIEF: Self-Psychology

I wrote this series--Theory in Brief--for students and practitioners of psychology/therapy; however, I believe it contains much interesting information for the layperson, especially those interested in psychology and/or philosophy.

NAME OF THEORY:  Self Psychology   

BASIC PREMISES AND PHILOSOPHY:  Empathically obtained knowledge strengthens the capacity to live both with truth and illusion and the fundamental, radical and unavoidable uniqueness and infinity of the eternal and internal self.   

Focus on fundamental needs for healthy development, particularly idealizing, mirroring and twin-ship (or alter ego) needs.  Peoples’ self-cohesion, self-esteem and vitality derive from and are maintained by empathic responsiveness of others to their needs.   

Subjective experience is at the center of clinical and theoretical concerns.  How and why we change and how and why in certain ways we predictably stay the same are considered.  The return of the repressed is relative.

FOUNDERS OR IMPORTANT CONTRIBUTORS:  Harold Kohut, Bowlby, F. Ornstein, F. Alexander

COUNSELING GOALS:  Facilitate clients’ understanding of relationship needs and personal deficits.  Help empower clients’ abilities and ways of making positive changes/transformations in their relationships, thereby facilitating positive change in themselves and their lives.

ROLE OF COUNSELOR:  Establish trusting relationship with client.  Sustain empathic emergence into the subjective perspectives and experiences of clients.  Place self-object transferences at center of analytical approach with empathic immersion to guide understanding and explanation.

EXAMPLES OF TECHNIQUES:  Acceptance: use reflective responses and active listening; Understanding:  therapeutic dialog, empathic or optimal responsiveness; therapeutic regression; vicarious introspection; empathy with therapists’ own experiences to explore and discover subjective “I” of clients

TERMS:  self-object experiences and transferences, healthy narcissism, empathic ambiances/failures, disruption/restorative process, fragmentation, self cohesion.