Types of therapies: Family Systems Therapy

Welcome to another exciting #TheoryThursdays!

Briefly

The most important thing I know about family therapy is that working in therapy with a family does not mean you are having family therapy. The second most important thing I know is that you can use family therapy without a family present.

Family Systems Therapies are the theoretical approaches that use the family system to understand what is not working and to solve it at the same time. The idea that small change can lead to big changes is importantly rooted in this approach.

Therapist

A professor of mine once told us that the greatest family therapy session is that in which family members forget about the therapist being there.

The therapist will remain as objective as possible, without taking sides, and try to intervene as they would do with an individual client, to serve as a sounding board for what the family is bringing.

The use of genograms is fairly common in this approach, although it is not unique to it. A genogram is the graphic description of a family, that may include different generations, important events, and relationships and dynamics among members.

Client

A slight difference with other kinds of approaches is the use of the identified patient or identified client (IP). Usually, when a family attends therapy, they have targeted someone as the patient, the person who needs the help or around whom some problems have developed.

This does not necessarily mean that in the therapeutic journey this is the sole focus of the therapy. While there is an identified patient, the whole family unit, even the members who are refusing to come, are the clients for the therapist.

Additionally, as I was hinting above, an individual can benefit from working within a systems perspective even if they are going to treatment by themselves. Exploring this person’s genograms, generational trauma, focus on client’s relationships with others and how does interact with current difficulties are some of the examples of how that may look like.

 

To be honest, I believe Family Systems to be of particular difficulty to practice in therapy. And it is because of that that I have a great admiration for anyone working within the approach.

What do you all think? Anything I have missed? Any experience with this treatment

 

Resources/More

Corey, G. (2017). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

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