What is Systemic Therapy?

Systemic family therapy has its origins in the 1950s but in present day treatment several models within the overall systemic concept exist. What unifies all of them is the importance therapists place on the understanding of psychological problems in complex social relationships such as families.

Systemic therapy aims to unearth the distinction between social relationships and to effect change. Systemic therapy recognizes that an individual suffering from a particular disorder but remaining trapped in their unaltered social relationships will always be condemned to fall back into old behaviour patterns, rendering the effects of therapy useless. Thus, systemic therapy techniques cannot treat an isolated individual but must address the functions and allocated roles within a family context to bring about change for the better.

Therefore, systemic therapy exercises seek to: –

  • strengthen the individual
  • dissolve harmful patterns of behaviour
  • work on conflicts within social relationships

Therapists use different methods and tools for the creation of flexibility among family members and promote new points of view as well as different channels of communication. Among a range of methods used within a systemic therapy approach are:

  • circular questions, where clients will be asked to imagine how another member of their circle will react towards specific behavioural patterns, how that person might feel and what they might think. Through this method new points of view are created, as clients’ own perspectives are enhanced by that of others.
  • reframing, which involves a new interpretation of established frameworks or patterns. By using a technique that enables family members to give a new, positive spin on behaviour, new points of view and additional perspectives are gained, giving everyone a more positive outlook on life in the process.
  • working with metaphors and images allows therapists to package important messages in a way that circumvents resistance, which would surface very quickly, if such a message were to be delivered directly. Cards for Life can be a useful tool in the systemic therapy inventory of change, as an important message is delivered in such an unobtrusive way, prejudice has no chance to get in the way.

Find out more information about systemic therapy techniques  & Cards for Life here.

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