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Family Systems counseling treats the family as a whole.

Family Systems work is experienced through building awareness of inter-connection. The underlying premise is that family members are parts of the system, relating interdependently to make the system function uniquely. In family systems therapy, we assume that the cause and affect of a situation is circular, meaning there is really no identified patient. What we look at instead is the patterns of inter-relationship with the individuals in the system, personal and family history, and situational dynamics, such as roles and environmental factors. We look at how the system relates as a whole, and how the parts of the system can be regulated to improve relationship and thus the functioning of the whole family.

A good analogy for family systems is how a car might work with one part being dependent on other parts. If one part is adjusted for the functioning of the car, the other parts must be adjusted relative to that parts so the performance of the car will be maximum and uncompromised. This principle can apply to couple or to entire families. The family systems perspective is particularly useful in working with difficult children.

Family systems counseling often involves family of origin work which not only incorporates the history of a family over several generations but also evaluates and modifies patterns of relationship. Each pattern is like a system within the larger system and works relative to other systems and parts whether functional or dysfunctional. Family systems therapy is very creative, modifying the system and treating the individual within the system.

How family systems show dysfunction is sometimes apparent, but sometimes there are hidden dynamics such as the non-verbal communication that occurs between parent and child. Often bad habits have been unconsciously learned and are deeply engrained. The solution is not always obvious to the family member. For the therapist, it is important to look at what is working well in the family and to evaluate what needs to change for the betterment of the system. Strategies are then applied to bring awareness to members of the family as well as improving relationship dynamics.

Here are two examples of how systems theory might be used. One very affective procedure is to evaluate the personal non-verbal communication between parent and child using a standardized tool looks systemically to parent and child interactions to balance the type of stimulation a child receives. Very often what the child needs is not what the parent offers, which leads to frustration in both individuals. Strategies are then given to the parent to modify interactions. Another effective method is to empower each of the family members through becoming aware of the roles they are taking in the family and offering tools to move out of these roles into more authentic relationship.



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