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

Consistent with notion that addiction" is a family disease, I recognized the importance need to engaging family members in the recovery process to promote promote better treatment outcomes and sustainable change. In contrast with traditional modalties of care, that tend to focus on addressing the individual that is exhibiting problematic behavior, I embrace the notion that maladaptive behavior is a symptom of a more complex problem within the family system.

— Sarah Espenshade, Clinical Social Worker in Rosemont, PA

Family Systems is a defining cornerstone of how I approach work with my clients. Together, we examine how the external landscape has affected your internal landscape, as well as looking at intergenerational patterns that are passed on from caregivers to their children.

— Lindsay Pierce, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Olympia, WA

Systems thinking, including but not limited to how a family is a system, is at the root of my training. I use systems think at all levels (internal, couple, family, groups (such as at work) and societal as the basis within which I approach my work with clients as a marriage and family therapist and then use techniques from other orientations that I have been trained in to work towards desired outcomes.

— Christopher Smith, Pastoral Counselor in Harrison, NY

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

Family systems therapy is a way of looking at the entire family as an emotional unit since family members are interconnected with one another. I often get told by clients that I ask more "relationship questions" than other counselors. For instance, I am often exploring "What would your partner/parent/child say to you about how you are responding to a situation?" As we do not live in isolation, we cannot heal in isolation and exploring our relationships allows for meaningful connections in life.

— Marcy Humphrey, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Boise, ID

My psychotherapy approach is focused on the notion that the family is a system and that no one is to blame for the conflicts within the family, but rather it is the interactional patterns between the family members which may need to be changed. Therefore, I help the individual, couple, or family facilitate changes and solutions to achieve a different reality than what is currently being experienced.

— Mikayla Phan, Marriage & Family Therapist in Madison, WI

Individuals don't become themselves in isolation, nor do they function in isolation. The family modeling and training is a powerful force that may create behaviors and patterns that prove dysfunctional as one grows and encounters new people in new situations with new demands. Old systems- values, behaviors, roles, needs, and communication often come into conflict with other's systems, as two or more people struggle and seek assistance in therapy to develop a new healthy functional system.

— Ronald Mah, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in San Leandro, CA

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

None of us exists in a vacuum. We\'re embedded in systems large and small, and each of us in a family system. Often within these are our most precious and painful relationships- people who know how to push our buttons, patterns we can\'t seem to break. Family systems examines the push and pull of all members, acknowledging that every action is a reaction and that with awareness choice is possible.

— Polly Harrison, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist Intern in Portland, OR

I love Bowenian/Multigenerational Family Therapy. Have you heard of a Genogram? It is a family tree with a therapeutic lense and IT IS AMAZING. I work with my clients are drawing out the most recent three generations and then we discuss patterns, ways of interacting, and significant events that have happened in their family and how they contribute to their current symptoms. It's brilliant.

— Marissa Esquibel, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Claremont, CA

In 2006 I started using a now-nationally recognized evidenced based treatment model called Family Centered Treatment, which uses principles from Eco Structural Family Therapy and Emotionally Focused Therapy practices. I became certified, first as a provider of Family Centered Treatment, then later as a Trainer, Supervisor, and Master Trainer within the model. I no longer specifically deliver the evidence-based model, my therapeutic approach continues to be rooted in this theoretical framework.

— Cindy Lemberg, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Indian Trail, NC

I work from a family systems perspective, incorporating the structure and patterns of your family of choice and family of origin into my understanding of your current struggles.

— Kristin Boyd, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Anaheim, CA

I help clients look through their family of origin connections to help them discover their sources of anxiety, stress, and how those connections influence their present choices

— William Hemphill, Licensed Professional Counselor in Norcross, GA

My degree from LIOS/Saybrook University includes a focus in Systems Therapy. The Family Systems we are exposed to during our development informs how we look at the world, our sense of ourselves, and how the two interact. Our Family System especially informs our behavior, and learning more about how that works, and how to change our interactions with and perspectives on our family unit helps lead to change in our own behavior.

— Kelley O'Hanlon, Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Redmond, WA

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

I am a trained marriage and family therapist; This allows me to support individuals, couples, polycules, organizations, groups, and families on a larger level. I consider every part of a person and how that plays a role in who they are and how they move throughout the world in relation to others. When considering the systems of an individual, couple, polycule, or family, I assess their neighborhood, SES, family of origin, age, social oppression, gender, and more.

— Kathryn Ewers, Therapist in Germantown, Philadelphia, PA

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

I have worked with many individuals, couples, and families using this.Systemic therapy takes into account ALL aspects of one’s life—emotional, psychological, past and present family history, the client’s family of origin, and attachment styles. It allows the therapist to view the client not in a microcosm but in a more complete and holistic perspective. This will allow the client to undergo a much more effective and deep-rooted treatment that can have perhaps a lifelong affect on their system

— Ian Hammonds, Associate 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

My education is based in family systems and how we are all impacted, in some form or fashion, by the families from which we came, by our friends, our work environments, our communities, and our culture. Developing an understanding of these influences by taking a look at our past and present environments can offer possible clarity as to why we behave the way we do.

— Cindy Purifoy, Marriage & Family Therapist in Overland Park, KS

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

I utilize family systems lens to explore relationship patterns, FOO challenges, and as a starting point in having conversations around other systems that people who see me interact with.

— Samuel Borroff, Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Monroe, 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

Family systems therapy is a form of psychotherapy that helps individuals resolve their problems in the context of their family units, where many issues are likely to begin. Each family member works together with the others to better understand their group dynamic and how their individual actions affect each other and the family unit as a whole. One of the most important premises of family systems therapy is that what happens to one member of a family happens to everyone in the family.

— Claudia Chandler, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Los Angeles, CA

Clients do not live in a vacuum. They are affected by numerous systems from ones related to employment to family matters. Understanding how these different systems interact with each other and what affect that interaction has on our life can be powerful information that can lead to profound changes in understanding. By better understanding the systems in which we interact with, we can better understand what choices we have before us.

— Ryan Delaney, Licensed Professional Counselor in Turtle Creek, PA