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 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
 

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

I believe that we are guided by our own internal strengths to make the best decisions for ourselves in our lives. However, through stress, conflict, and other issues in life our strengths can be muted. I will work to unmute these, trusting in your own instincts and placing your expertise at the forefront.

— Aileen Renteria, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in The Woodlands, TX

I have a background in Family systems/family therapy by studying this as a graduate student at Capella University. I also have completed training in EcoSystemic Family Therapy.

— Cicely Simon, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Garner, NC
 

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 Bluffton, SC

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

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

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
 

I have worked with children and families, and studied family systems and family therapy for over 20 years. As part of my assessment with new clients, we explore family history and intergenerational patterns in order to better understand present day concerns and resources.

— Anita Stoll, Clinical Social Worker in Austin, TX

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
 

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

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
 

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

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

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
 

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

So many clients love Richard Schwartz Internal Family Systems model. Here clients can observe themselves as having parts of themselves that create a whole. Have you ever heard yourself think or say, "well, part of me wants this, but then I do something else." Examining ourselves in this way can bring about compassion, acceptance and greater presence to be with both our dark and light natures and learn how to work with instead of against certain parts. One love, I say!

— Andrea Rábago, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Austin, TX
 

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