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

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

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

Most of my training has been focused on understanding and working with families. My grad program had a particular focus on understanding the different family-systems based approaches, including Satir, Bowenian, and Structural. I believe the family system has the most significant impact on our ability to overcome mental health issues and creates the opportunity for long-term success.

— Alisha Sweyd, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Pacific Grove, CA

I am trained in systems theory and understand that behaviors do not happen in a vacuum. All of us have the qualities we have in part due to nature and nurture and I work with clients to better understand past and present systems in their lives and how these impact their mental health. Relationships are paramount to most of us, with family relationships often being a priority and it's important for clients to work with their family systems in therapy to make sustainable changes.

— Heidi Schnakenberg, Licensed Professional Counselor in Colorado Springs, CO

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

This is soul-centered talk therapy. You will deeply grow in your capacity to love yourself unconditionally and to remove anything that is hindering your ability to harness complete joy You will learn how to grow your personal relationship with meditation You will be able to explore and understand the call of your unique spirit

— Moe Brown, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Atlanta, GA

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

All clients are a part of multiple systems that are taking into account influences their experiences in both the past and present.

— Tristan Martin, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Manlius, NY

Jennifer has been using a family systems with clients for the past 12 years. She became interested in the theory when she was obtaining her master's in marriage and family counseling. She enjoys helping families see how there are patterns that develop over the generations and even within the current family dynamic that can create stress or difficulties. It is extremely helpful in making changes to the family dynamics to recognize where the patterns developed and be empowered to make changes.

— Jennifer Magbanua, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Orlando, FL

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

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

Families are all unique. Each individual brings something of value to their family and when challenges arise, this can be difficult to see. Through nurture and growth, each family member can work together to find common ground and work towards a healthier relationship with their loved ones.

— Cathleen Olson, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Vero Beach, FL

There are several elements of the systemic approach that I believe are beneficially applied to therapy. The main ones I would mention in the space I have here is summed up in the following concept: Life is not just about me. If it was, you would not be in it. Life is not just about you. If it was, I would not be in it. Life, then, must be about us. Family systems is a theoretical underpinning that acknowledges the idea that we, and our problems, do not exist in a vacuum. They affect a system and that system affects us. Treatment then focuses on the systems we are a part of and the feedback loops that maintain distressing symptoms -- the homeostatic effect of dysfunction.

— Adam Bertoch, Counselor in The Woodlands, TX

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.

— Anne Caulley, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Redwood City, CA

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

My training at University of Oregon focused on systemic based therapies including family systems for individual and relational clients. I have training and experience using Family Systems orientation.

— Cora Keene, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in San Francisco, CA

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Everyone in a family system is interdependent and thus affects everyone else. The more facts of family functioning you get, the more skillfully you can steer your own course.

— Barbara Cunningham, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in San Diego, CA

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

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 the learning about self that observing family system dynamics can provide. We all learn what we know from somewhere. I enjoy walking with my clients as they discover what patterns have been learned and what values and behaviors they want to invest in and continue to practice.

— Bethany Schaefer, LPC Intern Supervised by Leah McDill, LPC-S, Licensed Professional Counselor Intern in Round Rock, TX

I completed a Masters program at East Tennessee State University with a concentration in Marriage and Family Therapy. My program had a heavy emphasis on family systems theory and practice.

— Kimberly Mathis, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Chattanooga, TN

I work from a Bowen family systems perspective seeing each client as part of a bigger emotional process than just themselves. Bringing to light the natural processes that we play a part in and our on contributions to symptoms in our lives provides a road map for maturing and growing ourselves in objective and thoughtful ways as individuals, as parents, as coworkers, as spouses, etc.

— Ellie Rogers, Licensed Professional Counselor in , TX

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

I have worked with many families using the family systems theory. I ask members about their various roles within the family and collaborate with them to determine how their system currently functions. I then find the 'cog' within the system to determine a more efficient way for the family to interact with one another. This cog is usually made up of interpersonal conflict or mental health diagnosis. By isolating the issue, the family can then interact and develop as a unit.

— Ellen Stephenson, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Orlando, FL

I consider the role of each member of a family and look at how the entire system operates.

— Eleanor Wohlfeiler, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Oakland, CA