Family Systems

Family systems therapy is a therapeutic technique that thinks about the family as a single, emotional unit. Each action and family member affects the others. Family systems therapy focuses on families and couples in intimate relationships with a goal of nurturing change and development. It tends to view change in terms of the systems of interaction between family members. It emphasizes family relationships as an important factor in psychological health. A professional trained in this technique will work on understanding the relationships within a family, and create a family history that will be the foundation for how current behaviors are viewed. No individual can be understood in isolation from the others in the familial unit. Issues shared among family members, such as substance abuse, depression, eating disorders, anxiety, and schizophrenia are good candidates for a family systems approach. Think this approach might work for you? Reach out to one of TherapyDen’s family systems specialists today.

Meet the specialists

Working with complex systems such as a family requires careful skill, courage, a clear understanding of family dynamics, and a touch of grace. Each family member should feel they trust the therapist and are being given a chance to be heard, all the while, the therapist is juggling up to 6+ family members thoughts, feelings, current, and past pains. It requires an enormous amount of training, understanding of the system (family) you enter and their trust. It’s the best part of my job!

— Laura (Lori) Patin, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Eagle River, AK

Remember the mobile that you had hanging over your bed when you were little? Or perhaps the one hanging over your own baby's bed right now? That's how families work, like a mobile. When you touch one part of that mobile, all the other parts start to move. And that's how families work. One person's behavior affects all the other people in the system, and the relationships between family members affect all the other family members. As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I help people understand their own family system, both the one in which they live now and the one in which they grew up. Understanding how families work can help us map out patterns that might not work so well, so we can make changes to them to help things get better. It is comforting to know what kinds of things motivate our behavior, because that gives us the power to change them.

— Diana Walla, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in West Lake Hills, TX
 

Everyone plays a role in their family. When the family unit gets upset and roles are inadequate or inappropriate family systems is the best approach to reset the family unit.

— Cynthia Cruz, Counselor in Chicago, IL

We are all embedded in various systems--from our family of origin, to our current relationships, to schools, society and more. Understanding the weblike nature of our existence is crucial to addressing individual suffering and aspirations. Cybernetics, systems theory, offers an invaluable way of helping to change/heal.

— Eli Hastings, Marriage & Family Therapist in Seattle, WA
 

My training as a marriage and family therapy means that I think of the world in systems amd my approach is rooted in systems theories. I have worked with couples, families, and groups using the theoretical approaches of Yalom, The Gottmans, Sue Johnson, and others.

— Genevieve Saenz, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Austin, TX
 

John Dunne wrote that no man is an island. And while I bristle that women aren't mentioned the quote, I firmly believe it's true about our mental health. We create systems with the people we interact with...their behavior influences ours...which influences theirs. Together, we can make changes in the system, reduce conflict, and increase happiness.

— LAKink Shrink, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in West Los Angeles, CA

Systems Theory is not necessarily about doing therapy with an entire family (who has time for that?). A look at your family system is like seeing the inner workings of a clock. We have much more information about how and why you are the cog shaped the way you are shaped, when we look at the functioning of the entire clock. What's magical is, by changing how you are shaped, or how you behave, you can't help but affect the shape (behavior) of all the cogs in your family, workplace or community!

— Kathryn Gates, Marriage & Family Therapist in Austin, TX

As a marriage and family therapist my primary training and expertise is in family systems and working with relationship dynamics.

— Alana Ogilvie, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Portland, OR
 

Systems Theory is not necessarily about doing therapy with an entire family (who has time for that?). A look at your family system is like seeing the inner workings of a clock. We have much more information about how and why you are the cog shaped the way you are shaped, when we look at the functioning of the entire clock. What's magical is, by changing how you are shaped, or how you behave, you can't help but affect the shape (behavior) of all the cogs in your family, workplace or community!

— Kathryn Gates, Marriage & Family Therapist in Austin, TX

The family is an emotional system. One person’s emotional functioning can easily affect the emotional functioning of the other family members. We can be a part of a family without being part of the family problems. Utilizing Bowen Therapy/Family Systems, we can explore the family dynamics that continue across generations. Working with a single family member, can be as great as working with the entire family, as even change in one person’s effects various family members, altering the whole.

— Shay Phillips, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Houston, TX
 

I take a structural family systems approach to therapy, and what that means is this: The role we take in the family system and the structure of the family system impacts the way we function in our lives, particularly in relationships. Individuals cannot be understood in isolation from one another, but rather as a part of their family, as the family is an emotional unit. Families are systems of interconnected and interdependent individuals, none of whom can be understood in isolation from the system. The way we are perceived by our family members in the family system is the mirror in which we see ourselves. I believe the mirror in which we see ourselves (our self esteem) is the foundation for how we are in the world, which impacts how we approach relationships and all aspects of our lives.

— Kathy Hardie-Williams, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Tigard, OR
 

Our families are our earliest teachers about what is acceptable in terms of emotions, behaviors, relationships, and roles. Understanding the explicit and implicit rules of your family of origin will create a framework to inform our evaluation of your functioning in relationships across all domains of your life.

— Hannah Donahue, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Los Angeles, CA

Whether it is the family you were born into or the family you chose to create, we are impacted and impacting everyone that we hold dear to our hearts. I think great change can occur in your life when you include your family in treatment and explore the ways you are connecting and work towards shifting the moments of hurt and disconnection.

— Madeline Fox, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Portland, OR
 

As a marriage and family therapist I have been, and continue to be, trained to explore the dynamics of a client's family, and to see the client as part of a bigger system. And despite its name, I use a family systems mindset when working with individuals. In short, we all play a part within our family. Don't believe me. Many clients have expressed regressing to their childhood ways during occasions of anxiety...like holidays spent with the family. Taking a step back we see how one person affects the entire system, and how the entire system affects the one person. Within our families we learned our roles, family rules, and expectations. In forming relationships with others we are bringing what we've learned from our family with the anticipation of the same response. Meanwhile, the other person is doing the same thing. Hello miscommunications, anxiety, and frustration. Family systems helps us work through those sticky parts and recognize our part in the relationship dynamic.

— Sheila Tucker, Counselor in Hilton Head Island, SC
 

The family is an emotional system. One person’s emotional functioning can easily affect the emotional functioning of the other family members. We can be a part of a family without being part of the family problems. Utilizing Bowen Therapy/Family Systems, we can explore the family dynamics that continue across generations. Working with a single family member, can be as great as working with the entire family, as even change in one person’s effects various family members, altering the whole.

— Shay Phillips, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Houston, TX
 

We exist within the framework of many systems on many levels. We increase our self understanding by exploring the systems that have influenced us and that impact our lives on a daily basis. This work allows us to see, sometimes for the first time, the ways that we have been taught to be human. We may realize that we no longer wish to carry on the traits handed to us by certain systems. We may choose to embrace or let go of parts of ourselves that we may have previously not known to explore.

— Sarah Bower Ho, MA, Counselor in Portland, OR

In family systems therapy, therapists help families identify how their family functions and how families function in general. Family therapy also helps all family members work on their problems together. Goals of treatment may vary depending on your family’s unique needs, but the main goal of family therapy is to achieve harmony and balance within the family system. This may involve building communication and problem-solving skills. Or it could involve learning to manage conflict.

— Joy Phillips, Therapist in Broomfield, CO

I work with all clients from a family systems perspective. We all are a part of a family system and that is extremely influential on our current behaviors, thoughts and beliefs about the world.

— Adriane Kruer, Clinical Psychologist in Los Angeles, CA
 

I believe that individuals are shaped by the family (biological or non-biological) that they are nurtured in and that the system impacts every aspect of a clients development and life.

— Tracey R Cobb, Counselor in Marietta, GA

Family Systems forms the foundation of my therapeutic approach. Family Systems is relevant even if you are attending therapy as an individual, because it means I am considering how the systems in which you developed have impacted your present functioning.

— Brittany Boney, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Portland, OR
 

The family system includes more than just parents and children--our family system is our friends, our extended family, and our community. In family systems therapy, the therapist considers the roles and patterns of the client, in relation to his or her family. Family systems therapy is mostly commonly used with children and teens, since the family has the most influence on these age groups.

— Lilyan Moore, Counselor in Portland, OR

Did you know all kinds of healthy and unhealthy conditions can be passed down through generations? If you're experiencing anxiety and depression, for example, it may have more to do with your family of origin than something in your current life. I was trained in Bowen Family Systems, which emphasizes looking at the family as a whole to help understand the origins of disorders. In other words, no one is an island; we are all connected. This viewpoint can help you feel more empowered to make changes in your life and your relationships.

— Rachel Moore, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in San Diego, CA
 

I view difficulties and challenges as something that gets developed between people rather then a problem being in or because of one individual.

— PeriAnne VanBelois, Counselor in Grand Rapids, MI

I am a systems therapist by training, which means that I believe that context really matters in our problems. Rather than looking only within you for the solution to your distress, we will look at the people and systems around you as well. Your relationships with others involve a give and take. Some parts are yours to fix, and some are outside your control.

— Gretta Duleba, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Seattle, WA
 

As a marriage and family therapist, I was trained to see symptoms not only in relation to the individual, but also within the context surrounding the individual. Our family, school, work, neighborhood, community, and even cultural attitudes all have an impact on the individual and my work takes into account all of these factors.

— Jacqueline "Jackie" Abeling, Marriage & Family Therapist in Maple Grove, MN

Structural Family Therapy is an approach which believes that change occurs in the whole family system when one part of the system changes. When I use interventions from a Structural Family Therapy orientation, I assess the family’s culture, rituals, stories, roles, hierarchies, alliances, rules, consequences and various other systems within the family. Through participation in therapeutic activities and homework assignments, I help to shift the family from conflict to connection. Overreaching goals of our work together include developing healthier patterns of communication and a stronger family identity. These will then contribute to improvement in individual family members emotional wellbeing.

— S. Abigail McCarrel, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Arcadia, CA