family therapy

Family Systems Therapy

Family systems therapy draws on systems thinking to view the family as an emotional unit. When applied to families, systems thinking—evaluating the parts of a system in relation to the whole—suggests that an individual’s behaviour is informed by and inseparable from the functioning of his or her family of origin.

The Development of Family Systems Therapy

Family systems therapy is based on Murray Bowen’s family systems theory, which holds that individuals are inseparable from their network of relationships. Bowen believed that all people experienced challenges within their family of origin and that this therapeutic approach could raise the level of awareness of family members with regards to how they communicate with each other and the circular impact that this behaviour could have on the members of the family.

Whereas traditional individual therapy addresses the individual’s inner psyche in order to effect change in his or her relationships, Family therapy suggests addressing the structure and behaviour of the broader relationship system that informs the character of the individual. Bowen also claimed that the change in behaviour of one family member would necessarily influence the way that the family functions over time.ContactUs_quote_520by251px

Family Systems Therapy Approaches

Family systems theory (Ecosystemic approach) focus:

• Examines family processes and functions, such as communication or problem-solving patterns, by evaluating family behaviour outside the therapy session. Therapeutic techniques may include reframing or redefining a problem scenario or using paradoxical interventions—those that suggest the family take action that appears to be in opposition to their therapeutic goals, in order to create the desired change.

• Acknowledges generational influences on family and individual behaviour. Identifying multigenerational behavioural patterns, such as managing anxiety, can help people see that their current problems may be rooted in previous generations. This approach to family therapy, and he used it in treatment for individuals and couples, as well as families.

1. Brown, Jenny. (2008, September). Is Bowen Theory Still Relevant in the Family Therapy Field? Journal of the Counsellors and Psychotherapists Association of NSW Inc 3. Retrieved from
2. Family Solutions Institute. (n.d.) Strategic & Systemic. Family Solutions Institute MFT Study Guide. Retrieved from

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