Family systems therapy, or family therapy, is based on an understanding that all of us as individuals are part of a bigger whole. Indeed, we impact the greater whole, and the greater whole impacts us. What is more, different systems in life are routinely impacting us, including our families. (Our family system may or may not be our biological family, and may include our most cherished support system in life).
When we change as individuals (whether it is for the better, such as being in recovery from an addiction, or conversely from a major loss or disability), our family system goes through an adjustment period as well. When this happens, family therapy may be needed. Typically this involves helping the whole family understand how they influence each other, but also how each member has their own path and change process. Being open to these individual changes and fluctuations (for example, when a depressed child becomes more assertive; when an adult child moves away) is critical for healthy family functioning. My job as a psychologist is to help families understand how they can still be in good connection, but respect and honor each member/individual as he/she changes. Of great importance, is the ability to see that “roles” in families can be more destructive than good, and that movement and outgrowing roles is often life giving. Although initially stressful, the movement that can happen through family therapy is a step toward more honest, and connected relationships. To this end, family therapy is ultimately about helping each family member be their genuine selves, so they can psychologically and spiritually progress.