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

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 think of our families of origins as “relationship school”. This is where we learn about our needs and feelings - how they’ll be addressed or ignored. And what relationships look and feel like. And most of these are unconscious processes. Yet these belief systems are steering the ship. Part of my work with clients involves looking back at those possible influences on how we currently create or avoid relationships.

— Colette Whitaker, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Monrovia, CA

As both an Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, I use a family systems approach, even for my individual clients. The complex interplay of a person's inner circle (be it chosen or biological family) has a significant impact on their functioning and life fulfillment. Family systems allows us to explore issues of power and structure which I believe is essential to personal growth.

— Victoria Haynes, Licensed Professional Counselor in Williamsburg, VA

We are all connected and healing happens through a dissection of adverse experiences at the micro and macro level. Understanding joys and sorrows as they relate to systems is a large part of the healing process.

— Heather Alesch, Psychologist in Nashville, TN

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

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

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 utilize family systems theory to help you gain understanding of your family system, how it has affected your development of self and how you see yourself in the world.

— Linda Richards, in Houston, TX

My educational background is a Masters of Science in Marital and Family Therapy. I take this systems perspective into my therapy work with all my clients. Together, we explore how their mental health challenges are impacted by the wider systems of family, culture, race, gender, career and society.

— Kelsey Collins, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist

The Self-Injury Institute treats families with a family systems model. Visit for more information.

— Emma Jaegle, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Los Angeles, 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

Throughout graduate school, I was trained as a clinician to see the family as a unit versus as separate individuals. Even if I see a client individually, my goal is to explore their whole family background, as well as evaluate any important relationships and the interactions between family members. The way that I am able to get to know my client's the best is understanding their childhood and how they are influenced by their family members.

— Kendall Davis, Therapist in Atlanta, GA

We all exist in systems --- personal relationalships, families, school or work cultures, local cultures and subcultures, organizations, institutions, and local, state and national systems. Family systems work takes a particular look at family dynamics, how they affect family members, and how families can change dysfunctional dynamics. Together we can explore the systems you have experienced to change the negative effects you have internalized, and create positive changes.

— Renee Beck, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist

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

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

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

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

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

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

Systems theory takes into account all of the pieces that influence your life. In our first session, I will create a genogram with you. A genogram is essentially a fancy family tree. Family isn't always blood, so this will look different for everyone. We will examine trends, patterns, and ways in which your history has led to your wounds. For example, a genogram can show patterns of emotional disconnection that may have led to fear of abandonment or neglect. Knowledge is power!

— Emily Graham, Therapist in Denver, CO

Systems based approach to working with individuals, families, and organizations.

— Monica Urbaniak, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Dallas, TX

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 ,

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 Windermere, FL

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