Family systems therapy works with the couple or family as a unit.  It is an interactional model in which the therapist takes on the role of an active facilitator, helping open and redirect communication between family members.  The goal is to change the way  family members interact with each other in order to help them resolve their presenting problem.  The problem may initially be in regard to only one member of the family.  However, the behavior of the member who is exhibiting the problem impacts the ways that all family members interact and that interactional pattern becomes part of what continues to sustain the problem.  Often, it is only by changing the context in which family members act and communicate that a problem issue can be resolved.

When to Use Family Systems Therapy

Family therapy is effective in addressing marital/partner conflict, parent/child problems, and problems with a child or children in the family.  Family therapy is often the model of choice when the problem is specific to a child and it may logically seem that the child needs individual therapy.  Because a child’s behavior is largely shaped within the context of the family it is important to have the family involved in therapy in some form even when the child is primarily receiving individual services.  There are exceptions: when a parent is abusive toward family members it is not appropriate to have that parent participating in the family sessions.  Likewise couples therapy is not appropriate in cases of domestic violence.