Unit 12: Family Systems Theory Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in Unit 12: Family Systems Theory Deck (23):

Identify the common themes or characteristics of the family systems approaches. How are these core constructs similar to or different from the individual theories explored in earlier chapters?

Family systems perspective holds that individuals are best understood through assessing the interactions between and among family members. The development and behaviour of one family member is inextricably interconnected with others in the family. Symptoms are often viewed as an expression of a set of habits and patterns within a family. It is revolutionary to conclude that the identified clients problem might be a symptom of how the system functions, not just a symptom of the individuals maladjustment, history, and psychosocial development.

Perspective is grounded on the assumptions that clients problematic behaviour may:
1) serve a function or purpose for the family
2) be unintentionally maintained by family processes
3) be a function of the family’s inability to operate productively, especially during developmental transitions
4) be a symptom of dysfunctional patterns handed down across generations

One central principle agreed-upon by family therapy practitioners regardless of particular approach, is that the client is connected to living systems. Attempts to change are best facilitated by working with and considering the family or relationship as a whole.

Similarities and differences from individual theories:
Both therapists are interested in current living situation and life experiences.
While the individual therapist may focus on obtaining an accurate diagnosis, perhaps using DSM, the systemic therapist explores the system for family process and rules, perhaps using a genogram.
Individual therapist focusses on causes, purposes, and cognitive, emotional, and behavioural processes; the systemic therapist may invite members of the family into therapy such as mother, sister, and focusses on the family relationships.
Individual therapist is concerned with clients individual experiences and perspectives; systemic therapist is concerned with transgenerational meanings, rules, cultural, and gender perspectives within the system, and even the community and larger systems affecting the family.
Individual therapist intervenes in ways designed to help client cope; systemic therapist intervenes in ways designed to help change clients context.

Systemic therapists do not deny the importance of the individual and the family system, but they believe an individual’s systemic affiliations and interactions may have more power in the persons life than a single therapist could ever hope to have.


The believe that problems manifested in one’s current family will not significantly change until relationship patterns in one’s family of origin are understood and directly challenged. Approach operates on the premise that a predictable pattern of interpersonal relationships connects the functioning of family members across generations.

Multigenerational family therapy

Developer is Murray Bowen


A process in which triads result in a two-against-one experience



In multigenerational family therapy, this involves both the psychological separation of intellect and emotion and independence of the self from others. In this process, individuals acquire a sense of self-identity which enables them to accept personal responsibility for their thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and actions

Differentiation of the self


The family systems approach where the central idea is that an individuals symptoms are best understood from the vantage point of interactional patterns within a family and that structural changes must occur in a family before an individual symptoms can be reduced or eliminated.

Structural-strategic family therapy


What are the goals of structural-strategic family therapy

1) reduce symptoms of disfunction
2) Bring about structural change within the system by modifying the families transactional rules and developing more appropriate boundaries

Both models seek to re-organize dysfunctional or problematic structures in the families; boundary setting, unbalancing, reframing, ordeals, and enactments all became part of the family therapeutic process. Neither approach deals much with exploration or interpretation of the past, and instead therapist joins with the family, to block stereotype interactional patterns, to re-organize family hierarchies or subsystems, and to facilitate the development of more flexible or useful transactions.


What are some differences between the structural and strategic models

Differ somewhat in how each of view family problems:
Minuchin (structural) sees individual and family difficulties as symptomatic, whereas Haley (strategic) sees them as “real“ problems that need real answers.

Both models are directive in nature and both expect therapists to have a certain level of expertise to bring to the family therapy process.

In strategic family therapy, considerable emphasis is given to power, control, and hierarchies in families and in the therapy sessions


What are the eight lenses in family systems therapy?

Internal family systems, teleological, sequences or tracking patterns of interaction, organization, developmental, multicultural, gender, process


In family systems therapy describe the lens: individuals internal family systems

Views the individual as an organismic system, complete with structure, organization, and subsystems. An individual is made up of many parts, or dimensions, to his or her personality


In family systems therapy describe the lens: teleological lens

Refers to the study of final causes, goals, endpoints, and purposes. Enables the family therapist to develop an understanding of what motivates individual behavior, The systemic purposes of symptoms, the goals of triangulation, and the uses of pattern interactions and routines.
Both individuals and families-as-a-whole act purposively. Purposeful actions promote growth and development when they are characterized by reasonable risk, courage, confidence, self-esteem, energy, optimism, hope, and sequences of experience that open even wider possibilities for experience. Alternatively, actions and interactions characterized by retreat, fear, and protection tend to constrain growth and development


Putting what is known into a new, more useful perspective.


Family therapists often reframe difficult behaviours by noting the motivation or personal intentions behind the behaviour


In family systems therapy describe the lens: sequences/tracking patterns of interaction

Understand that family life is ordered, and family members tend to interact in sequences that, over time, are repeated in multiple forms. Referred to as embedded sequences

Adaptive sequences require leadership that is balanced, fair, and cooperative. Maladaptive sequences occur when rules are rigid and inflexible, when parts are polarized, and when change is resisted.


In family systems therapy describe the lens: The organization lens

Understands that individuals and families have some organizing process that holds everything together and provides a sense of unity. Organization is manifest in family rules, routines, rituals, and expected roles.

Collaboration is found in mutual or egalitarian relationships between couples, and the function of leadership in the family is to organize the system in clear, useful ways. For each of the parts to grow and develop as well as contribute to the family as a whole, there must be room for involved members in the decision making processes; reasonable access to family resources; and appropriate responsibility for self and the system as a whole.

Balanced family leadership requires the ability to be firm, but friendly, and to set developmentally appropriate limits while remaining fair, flexible, and encouraging


In family systems therapy describe the lens: The developmental lens

The family life cycle focusses on six significant transition:
1) A single, young adult leaves home to live a more or less independent life
2) individuals marry or become a couple to build a life together
3) The couple has children and start a family
4) The children become adolescents
5) The parents launch their children into the world and prepare to live a life without children
6) The family reaches its later years where children may have to care for parents as well as their own children, and the parents prepare for the end of their lives


In family systems therapy describe the lens: The multicultural lens

Understands that discrimination and oppression shape experiences and symptoms, and these factors are found in all cultures. The dominant culture organized around two immediate goals, both related to power: it reinforces itself and its values and; minimizes the power and influence of alternative positions and the people who hold them

A multi cultural lens challenges dominant culture and introduces diversity and complexity into our understanding of the human condition. Reframes dominant culture as simply one of many. Seeks not tolerance but an appreciation and valuing of diversity


In family systems therapy describe the lens: The gender lens

Recognizes that the oldest and most pervasive discrimination and oppression in the world is against women in all cultures, and with few exceptions, across the human lifespan. Family therapists have increasingly accepted an advocacy stance as part of their therapy. Therapist can no longer ignore their personal influence and their responsibility to challenge and equal status and treatment of women


In family systems therapy describe the lens: The process lens

Understands that what is happening between people – the process of communication – is essential to experiential models of family therapy. The meaning of any communication is always contained within the meta-communication: how we communicate contextualizes what we have to say. Process is also about our movement through significant events in life. Clarity of process tells us where we are and delineates where we are likely to go. It allows a therapist and the family to examine where they are in the flow of life, the process of change, and the experience of therapy

To function effectively, couples and families create routines that enable them to meet the needs and demands of every day life. When essential routines are interfered with, the result is a disruption that throws a system out of balance. In the face of disruption, families may initially seek retreat, but they generally fall into a state of chaos.


The therapists responsibility to meet each person with openness and warmth. Making contact with each person present as an effort towards good therapeutic relationships.


Also called engagement or simple care and concern

Based on the emphasis of a collaborative therapist-client relationship in which mutual respect, caring, empathy, and a genuine interest in others is primary


Describe the basic principles and differences of multi-generational, structural, and strategic family therapyies related to: Time focus

Multi generational – present and past: family of origin; three generations

Structural – present and past

Strategic – present and future


Describe the basic principles and differences of multi-generational, structural, and strategic family therapyies related to: therapy goals

Multi generational – differentiate the self; change the individual within the context of the system; decrease anxiety

Structural – restructure family organization; change dysfunctional transactional patterns

Strategic – eliminate presenting problem; change dysfunctional patterns; interrupt sequence


Describe the basic principles and differences of multi-generational, structural, and strategic family therapyies related to: role and function of the therapist

Multi generational – guide, objective researcher, teacher; monitor of own reactivity

Structural – friendly uncle; stage manager; promoter of change in family structure

Strategic – active director of change; problem solver


Describe the basic principles and differences of multi-generational, structural, and strategic family therapyies related to: process of change

Multi generational – questions and cognitive processes lead to differentiation and understanding of family of origin

Structural – therapist joins the family in a leadership role; changes structure; sets boundaries

Strategic – change occurs through action-oriented directives and paradoxical intervention


Describe the basic principles and differences of multi-generational, structural, and strategic family therapyies related to: techniques and innovations

Multi generational – genograms; dealing with family-of-origin issues; Detriangulating relationships

Structural – joining and accommodating; unbalancing; tracking; boundary making; enactments

Strategic – reframing; directives and paradox; amplifying; pretending; enactments