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.