Systemic Therapies: Couples, Relational, and Family Therapy
What is Systemic Therapy?
Most of us recognize that positive and satisfying relationships aid in the development and maintenance of our overall health. In the field of psychology, this understanding is what defines and distinguishes Systemic therapeutic models such as Couples, Relational, Organizational, and Family Therapies. Individuals are viewed as a part of several greater wholes and therefore these systems need to be considered in treatment planning. These systems can be relationships, friendships, families, businesses, cultures, or any group that shapes our thoughts and behaviors as relational beings.
Systemic and Family therapist are generally more focused on what happens between individuals rather than within individuals. They expand the individual lens to view symptoms as a product of the system in its entirety- emphasizing mutual understanding of members’ values, personalities, experiences, and coping strategies as well as their origins throughout generations of families, communities, and societies as a whole. Though this therapeutic lean is useful for most mental health issues, relational and systemic thinking is especially helpful for the following topics:
- Intergenerational issues
- Relational and Marital Issues
- Grief and loss
- Alternative or Blended families
- Individual, relational, or social adjustment difficulties
- Families with multiple racial, religious, or ethnic backgrounds
- Parenting issues
- Child behavioral issues
How does Systemic Therapy work?
Family Therapists use a wide range of therapeutic models to treat systemic issues, including Emotionally Focused, Structural, Strategic, Narrative, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapies. While the modalities of couples and family therapy are various to suit the diverse needs of clientele, communication skill building and interpersonal resolution are utilized most commonly.
Therapists may focus on specific conflicts or may evaluate the subtler sources of conflict, seeking to create understanding of the preverbal cogs in the wheel, clarifying and improving the dialogue and interactional patterns of clients. The therapist plays a supporting role, promoting collaboration and interactive skill building, identifying automatic and unconscious thought processes, and testing alternative cognitive, communicative, and behavioral processes to find new relational patterns. Gaining insight of these systemic issues and their impact allows all members to develop their individual awareness, productive interaction skills, and strengths as a supportive, secure, and functioning whole.