Family Systems Therapy

Family Systems Therapy

James J. Messina, Ph.D.

Family Systems Therapy – Family Therapists Leaders –

Alfred Adler-Rudolf Driekurs-open forum Child Guidance Clinics

Murray Bowen-Multigenerational Model-Triangulation,

Differentiation of Self Virginia

Satir-Conjoint Family Therapy-Human Validation, Relational Family Therapy

Carl Whitaker-Experiential Symbolic Family Therapy-therapist coach influences change Salvador Minuchin-Structural Family Therapy-create structural change

Jay Haley-Strategic Family Therapy-solves problems now Cloe Madanes- Wife Haley-Strategic Family Therapy.

The Family Systems Perspective

Individuals ~ are best understood through assessing the interactions within an entire family.

Symptoms ~ are viewed as an expression of a dysfunction within a family.

Problematic behaviors ~

Serve a purpose for the family

Are a function of the family’s inability to operate productively

Are symptomatic patterns handed down across generations

A family ~ is an interactional unit and a change in one member affects all members.

Difference between Systemic & Individual Therapy models

Individual Therapist Systemic Therapist
Obtain accurate diagnosis DSM IV Explore System for family process & rules
Begin Therapy right now Invite in parents, siblings
Focus: causes, purposes, processes Focus: family relationships
Concern with individual experience & perspective Concern transgenerational meanings, rules
Intervene to help individual learn to cope Intervene to change context within family system

Beliefs of Family Therapists

Individual’s affiliations & interactions have more power in person’s life than a single therapist could ever hope to have

Working with family or community therapists sees how individual acts and serves needs of these systems

Seeing individuals active in a system assists in developing types of interventions needed.

Systemic Perspective

Individual may carry a symptom for the entire family

Individual’s functioning is a manifestation of way family functions

Individual can have symptom existing independent of family structure

Symptoms always have ramifications for family members

Change the systems and individuals will change

Change dysfunctional patterns of relating & create functional ways of interacting & relating

Adlerian Family Therapy Outline

1.Key Concepts

2.Therapy Goals

3.Therapist’s functions

Adlerian Family Therapy Key Concepts

Use A Educational Model to Cousel Families

Emphasizes is on Family Atmospheres and Family Constellation

Therapists function as collaborators who seek to join the family

Parent Interview hunches about the purposes underlying children’s behavior

Family Atmosphere

◼ Unique: conjunction of all the family forces climate of relationships that exist between people
◼ Family is a system & each member exerts influence on every other member
◼ Autocratic or permissive common in West
◼ Parent role model of how genders relate, how to work, participate in world
◼ Emotional role models for children as well
◼ Family value: value all members support & cannot be ignored: religion, education, money achievement, right and achievement, right and wrong.

Family Constellation
◼ Consists of parents, children, extended family members
◼ Birth order
◼ How member find place in family system & how relate to one another to be unique
◼ Alignment of family members
◼ Develop genogram of family-starting point for client communication meaning of life

Role of Birth Order
Motivates later behavior:
◼ First-born: favored, only, pseudo-parent high achievers
◼ Second-born: rivalry & competition
◼ Last-born: more pampered, “baby”- creative, rebellious,

Adler’s five psychological positions:
1. Oldest child ~ receives more attention, spoiled, center of attention
2. Second of only two ~ behaves as if in a race, often opposite to first child
3. Middle ~ often feels squeezed out
4. Youngest ~ the baby
5. Only ~ does not learn to share or cooperate with
other children, learns to deal with adults

Mistaken Goals: Interactional View

◼ Four goals for children’s behaviors:
◼ Attention getting
◼ Power struggle
◼ Revenge
◼ Demonstration of inadequacy
◼ Short hand explanations, descriptions of consistent patterns
◼ Describe child’s misbehavior
◼ Parent’s reaction to behavior
◼ Child’s reaction to parents’ attempt to discipline
◼ Mistaken Goal: recognition flex –smile, twinkle
◼ Goal recognition and disclosure

Adlerian Family Therapy Goals

◼Unlock mistaken goals and interactional patterns
◼ Engage parents in a learning experience and a collaborative assessment
◼ Emphasis is on the family’s motivational patterns
◼ Main aim is to initiate a reorientation of the family
◼ Assist family member to have Social Equality the sense that everyone has an equal right to be valued and respected in the family

Adlerian Therapist Functioning

◼Open forum
◼ Parent Interview alone they are leaders
◼ Problem Description parents concerns
◼ Goal Identification What did you do about it?
◼ Typical Day repeated patterns of interaction
◼ Child Interview
◼ Goal Disclosure Do you know why you do…
◼ Posit tentative goals: Could it be that…
◼ Concluding Remarks to generate new approaches to end mistaken interactions to lead to more democratic, harmonious, effective living

Multigenerational Family Therapy Outline-Murray Bowen

1. Key Concepts
2. Therapy Goals
3. Therapist’s functions

Multigenerational Family Therapy Murray Bowen 8 Key Concepts

The application of rational thinking to emotionally saturated systems. A well-articulated theory is essential….

1. Differentiation of the self
2. Triangulation
3. Nuclear Family Emotional System
4. Family Projection Process
5. Emotional cutoff
6. Multigenerational transmission process
7. Sibling position
8. Societal regression

Differentiation of the self
◼ A psychological separation of intellect & emotion & independence of self from others
◼ Differentiated =Being able to be guided by thoughts or emotions – separateness
◼ Undifferentiated=difficulty separating self from others-fuse with dominant family emotional patterns-physical but not emotional leaving
◼ Unproductive family dynamics of previous generation transmitted by marriage of undifferentiated individuals
◼ Need for self-identify while still belonging to one’s family


A third party is recruited to reduce anxiety and stabilize a couple’s relationship
◼ Underlying conflict not addressed & worsens
◼ Once the 3rd person is resolved the balance achieved is off again
◼ Change in one part of family system affects the whole system
◼ Therapist must be highly differentiated so as not to get caught up in triangulation with couple

Multigenerational Family Therapy Goals

◼ With the proper knowledge the individual can change
◼ Change occurs only with other family members
◼ To change the individuals within the context of the system
◼ To end generation-to-generation transmission of problems by resolving emotional attachments
◼ To lessen anxiety and relieve symptoms
◼ To increase the individual member’s level of differentiation

Multigenerational Family Therapy Therapist Functioning

◼ Genogram work: look at family over three generations
◼ Look for critical turning points in family emotional process
◼ Characteristics of family members
◼ Evolutional picture of family: tools for assessment
◼ Asking Questions: What role did you play with that person in the family? Looking for fusion within the family.

Conjoint Family Therapy Outline
1. Key Concepts
2. Therapy Goals
3. Therapist’s functions

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Regards, Coyalita

Behavioral Health Rehabilitative Specialist & Addiction Counselor

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