A systemic approach…
uman beings are social beings. We grow, learn and change through our relationships with others. This is why the systemic approach to therapy focuses on the way in which we interact in our closest relationships, with, for example, our families, our partners and our friends.
All psychological problems have roots in both individual as well as interpersonal symptoms. Therefore, if we find ourselves in constant conflict in our closest relationships it is likely that we will end up perpetually angry and frustrated, or perhaps suffering from depression and anxiety. Likewise, if one of our family members, partner or friend is experiencing a difficult moment in their life, or is suffering from symptoms of depression, fear and anxiety, this will most likely have an effect on the people surrounding them, probably causing conflict and distress.
Change, too, has an individual and interpersonal dimension. The fact that we exist in a constant state of interchange with others makes it so that change often tends to occur on an interpersonal, and not merely individual, level.
Who is systemic therapy for?
n contemporary societies, family is the institution through which we receive our first care, the foundations of our education –moral as well as formal – and is comprised of the people with whom we interact for most of our lives. Our existence within a family lays the basis upon which we construct our identity, our self-perception and worldview, a foundation that leaves its imprint in our lives.
In other words, families are systems that are, on the one hand, self-contained, thus functioning as a group that together transcends different life stages and faces and responds to challenging situations presented by the “external world.”
Some of these situations could be:
- Migration and adaptation to a different country/culture
- Loss of a loved one or close family-friend
- Unemployment or economic difficulties
On the other hand, being a system also implies that within the family group the individuals interact amongst themselves, each individual acting on the basis of their own perspective and from the context of their own experience.
Thus, the family group deals not only with the external world, but also the interpersonal conflicts experienced by the individuals that make up the family system.
Some of these can be:
- Divorce and separations
- Behavioral and learning difficulties at school
- Children with behavioral disorders/phobias/eneuresis/encopresis
- Stepfamilies and adaptations to new family configurations
- Adolescence and coping with new stages of life course
- Eating disorders
- Communicational impasses
The way in which we communicate, as a family group and with our family members, is a model for the way we interact with others. This affects our emotional states as wells as our worldview.
any couples – regardless of their gender or legal status – often end up in therapy once their relationship is already in a critical state. For these couples, therapy becomes a last resort, an attempt to “save” their relationship.
However, unhappiness and malaise do not come about overnight; instead, they tend to be the result of a long process characterized by wear, frustration and long-held grudges.
The great challenge that faces contemporary couples is the passing of time, a process whereby each individual in the relationship transforms and changes in accordance with their life course and the particular issues they have faced along the years. When acknowledging these changes, separation often emerges as the only means of facing the current imbalance in the couple. Each member of the couple may feel that their partner of years is no longer the same person they once knew and that they have difficulties connecting with them in the ways they used to.
Thus emerge the questions: Does change necessarily imply distance? Can one learn to change in conjunction with others?
In couples’ therapy, the main focus is centered on improving the couples’ means of communication as well as their communicational patterns. The professional provides them with tools that help the couple to communicate more efficiently, learning to accept and be more empathetic with their partner’s differences. This helps the couple to face their problems in such a way that the relationship does not become destructive to the individuals that comprise it.
Some issues that could lead a couple to consult are:
- Going through an adoption or IVF process
- Communicational difficulties
- Loss of a loved one
- Sexual dysfunctions
- Differences in child rearing philosophies