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.


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