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

Your role within the family you are born into, or that of adult life, can be difficult to see with objectivity. I help people see how their functioning may be helping or hurting them, and find ways to build on their strengths and learn new approaches. Learning to see what is underlying your interactions with others can help build stronger relationships and help develop ways of supporting each other more effectively.

— Jeanene Wolfe, LCSW, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in ,

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

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
 

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

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
 

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
 

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

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

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 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

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
 

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

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, Licensed Professional Counselor Intern in Round Rock, 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

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

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
 

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
 

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