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Family Systems Therapy. Dr. Arra PSY 202. Family Systems Therapy. THEORY First developed by Alfred Adler in Vienna in the 1920’s Took root in America in the 40’s – 60’s Many approaches to therapy (adlerian, multigenerational, structural, experiential)

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family systems therapy

Family Systems Therapy

Dr. Arra

PSY 202

family systems therapy2
Family Systems Therapy


  • First developed by Alfred Adler in Vienna in the 1920’s
  • Took root in America in the 40’s – 60’s
  • Many approaches to therapy (adlerian, multigenerational, structural, experiential)
  • States that individuals are best understood within the context of relationships and through assessing the various interactions within an entire family
family systems therapy3
Family Systems Therapy
  • Symptoms are viewed as an expression of a dysfunction within a family and are often passed across generations
  • Therefore, the clients problematic behavior may serve a function or purpose for the family
  • May be a function of the family’s inability to operate productively
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Family Systems Therapy
  • Can be a symptom of dysfunctional patterns handed down across generations
  • Change by the client reverberates throughout the other parts of the family
  • Because a family is an interactional unit, it is best to treat the whole family
  • Best to assess an individual by observing the interactions with and mutual influences of other family members
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Family Systems Therapy
  • Therapists believe that to focus on the internal dynamics of an individual without adequately considering interpersonal dynamics as well yields an incomplete picture
  • The family provides a primary context for understanding how individuals function in relationship to others outside the family
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Family Systems Therapy
  • Parents and children become locked in repetitive and negative interactions
  • Thought the problems of one family are common to all others in the community
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Family Systems Therapy



  • Defined as the climate of relationships that exist between people
  • Each member exerts an influence on every other member
  • A ‘climate’ or ‘atmosphere’ develops that is said to characterize how the family relates to one another
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Family Systems Therapy


  • Constellation consists of parents, children, and extended family
  • Birth order
  • Constellation can give therapist a written description of how a person finds a place within the system
  • Therapists can ask parents to describe each child
  • Genogram (3 generational family map)
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Family Systems Therapy


  • Goals of children’s misbehavior
  • Attention getting, power struggle, revenge
  • Therapist looks at parents actions and reactions to these behaviors
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Family Systems Therapy


  • Establish and support parents as effective leaders of the family
  • Replace automatic, often unconscious, negative interactions with a conscious understanding of the family process
  • Encourage functional family interaction
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Family Systems Therapy


  • Therapists are collaborators who work to join the family from a position of mutual respect
  • Therapists investigate the family constellation, the motivations behind problematic interactions, the family process throughout the typical day
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Family Systems Therapy
  • Develop interventions and recommendations
  • Correct faulty goals; look at the motivation behind the goals
  • Provide parents with parenting skills
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Family Systems Therapy


  • Problem description and goal identification
  • Typical day: ask the family describe a typical day; this assesses family atmosphere and interaction
  • Parent interviews: yield tentative hypotheses regarding children’s misbehavior
  • Child interviews: find out what goals of misbehavior are
  • Encouragement: used with both parents and children
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Family Systems Therapy


  • Comprehensive process in assisting families
  • Looks at many aspects of the family (i.e., atmosphere, constellation, goals)
  • Respect is given to both children and adults
  • Interventions are suggested to children and adults
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Family Systems Therapy


  • How much insight can children provide
  • Parents feigning or embellishing
  • Provides much insight into behavior, interactions, and motivation, but not many explicit interventions