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Family Systems Theory



Family Systems Theory, or Bowen Theory, is rapidly becoming one of the most popular and effective methods of problem solving. Unlike conventional psychological theory which focuses on the individual, Family Systems Theory encourages people to think of issues (e.g. marital conflict, addiction, acting-out teenagers, difficult relationships, loneliness, etc.) in terms of a multigenerational family or a “system.” This approach encourages people to move away from blaming others and towards individual responsibility. The Center provides the following services in the family systems model:

  • Training
  • Individual, couple and family counseling
  • Group Counseling
  • Consultation

Family Therapy Explained

Many people know of family therapy but are unsure of what it specifically deals with and how it can help. Essentially it is a form of relationship counseling that places its emphasis on how family members interact with each other: this can be between husband and wife, paternal or maternal relationships as well as sibling interaction. Indeed, the whole branch of family therapy is actually quite broad. Furthermore, family therapists can work with their client’s one on one or the session can incorporate other members of the family.

Let’s break family therapy down and ask some main questions.

There is a prevalent theory known as the family systems theory. This theory is used by many family therapists to analyze the relationships we have with our family members and it purports that we learn how to manage close relationships, or rather our future experiences and how we deal with close relationships, by our early interaction with family members. It advocates that the way in which we function in our adult relationships – either romantically, with family or with friends – is directly based on our early familial interactions. An uneasy relationship with our family when we are younger will harm our future relationships according to this theory.

What Areas Can Family Therapy Help?

We have already mentioned that family therapy can be a broad area of psychology however some specific examples of where it can be used include:

  • Dealing with intergenerational pain that is usually associated with grief or change
  • New family relationships for example, a step parent or step children
  • Marriage counseling
  • A lack of communication within the family
  • Regular conflicts or deep lying issues
  • Lack of an emotional connection between family members

These are just a few examples and family counseling can work in all aspects of familial relationships.

Different Methods Of Therapy?

Family therapists can use different methods to achieve the desired results and rely on different branches of psychology. Some therapists will use experimental, cognitive, psychodynamic or art therapy, behavioral techniques and focus, however most will work with the family systems theory that we mentioned above. The systems theory is a popular concept in psychology and it maintains that everything we do and experience is interconnected; so in the instance of family therapy, our early relationships are directly connected to how we will deal in our future relationships. Individual counseling and encouraging dialogue between family members are two of the main ways in which family therapists work towards a successful outcome.

Professional Accreditation and Family Therapy

Family therapists and those who work in family therapy are part of the Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT). While family therapy itself is specifically trained other psychological professionals, for example professional counselors, those who work in social work or other areas of psychology may also have training relating to aspects of family therapy given how broad an area it can be. In fact, some professionals incorporate other methods and philosophies into their family therapy.

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