Systemic Therapy (or Family Therapy) is useful for a vast range of problems. Systemic simply means the focus is on the interaction between people and the functioning of the system (couple or family) as a whole. Systemic therapists aim help to family members understand each other better, change problematic patterns of behaviour and solve issues together.
Whilst a couple or family might self-refer for a particular issue, it is helpful to start therapy by sitting down together and talking about the worries each person has within the family. Not only does this ensure all the tricky stuff is put on the table, it also broadens the spotlight to avoid any one family member feeling like they are in the therapy hot-seat all the time (which can help people feel more comfortable trying therapy). Systemic Therapy should become a safe place to have difficult conversations and work together on solving concerns within the family.
Families come to see me with a range of issues including:
- Conflict in the family
- Parenting challenges
- Concerns around mental illness
- Grief / bereavement (including loss due to other reasons)
- Adjustments (i.e. big changes impacting family life)
- Times of transitions (i.e. teens starting high school or leaving home)
- Couple relationship issues (including infidelity)
- Family of origin issues (difficulties regarding the family in which you grew up)
Even when asked to see a child on their own I tend to prefer to involve families for most difficulties. Afterall, parents are usually on hand to provide the best support for their kids and know their child far better than any therapist can! I also like the way that families who have been to family therapy grow closer and improve conflict and communication skills so they can manage other bumps in the road without needing to see a professional in the future. Good therapy should build resilience and not dependence.
I am also keen to help individuals think systemically about their own difficulties and understand themselves better by reflecting on both their current and past relationships (including family of origin).