Family Systems Therapy
Family systems therapy places the individual in the context of a whole system and looks at the interrelations and interactions of all family members who are a part of the system. Individuals cannot be understood in isolation from one another, but rather as part of their family, because the family is an emotional unit. Families are systems of interconnected and interdependent individuals, none of whom can be understood in isolation from the whole system.
In a family, each member has a role to play and follows a certain set of rules. Family members respond to one other in a certain way according to their role. Each person knows and understands what they can discuss or how they can behave with each of the other family members. When one person behaves in a certain way, other individuals are impacted and react to this person.
In a stressed family unit, negative patterns may develop as certain family member’s negative behavior impacts and is impacted by other family member’s behaviors. Maintaining these negative pattern of behaviors within a stressed family unit may lead to disfunction. For example, if a husband is anxious and is unable to fulfill his roles as a homeowner, husband and father, the wife may need to take up more responsibilities with the children and the household to make up for the fact that the husband is unable to do so. The change in roles may maintain the stability in the relationship and family unit, but it also leads others to act differently in order to accommodate this new change in the family, which may lead to disfunction in the system in some way. In the above example, it is likely that the wife may not be able to carry on with both her and her husband’s responsibilities over a long period of time and may herself develop anxiety over time.
Family therapy may be used as the primary mode of treatment or as a complementary approach and is designed to address specific issues that affect the psychological health of the family, such as:
major life transitions
- financial hardship
- death of a loved one
- mental health conditions
- chronic illness
- communication problems
- interpersonal conflict
Family counseling promotes understanding of the family unit and promotes collaboration among family members in order to solve the problems of one or more family members. For example, if a child is misbehaving, therapy will focus on the family patterns that may contribute to the child’s acting out, rather than evaluating the child’s behaviour alone. As the family learns to support the child and works proactively to minimize or alter the conditions that may contribute to the child’s unwanted behaviour.