When treating individuals, couples and families in therapy, I use what is known as the “family systems theory”.
• Problems at school such as bullying
• Substance abuse in and out of the home
• Disordered eating
• Change that impacts the entire family
• Frequent fighting and arguing
• Domestic violence
• Relationship problems
• Coping with divorce or separation
• Parent conflict
• Difficulties between siblings
• Behavior problems
• Planning for shared custody of children
Self-expression must pass into communication for its fulfillment.
—Pearl S. Buck
What is Family Therapy?
Family systems regards the “family as a whole” as the “unit of treatment” and emphasizes its interdependency in relationships and communication, rather than focusing on the traits or symptoms of its individual members.
Understanding human behavior and treating it may be approached through two philosophical gateways: individual psychotherapy and family therapy. The earliest approaches to psychotherapy prevalent in the 20th Century were centered on the individual and the patient-therapist relationship. Freud and Rogers focused on the individual and believed that psychological problems were the result of neurotic conflicts and destructive interactions in one’s family of origin; that intra-psychic dynamics, internalized from family life, controlled behavior. They felt that treatment, therefore, should be directed at the seat of pathology—the “identified patient”. Hence, patients were segregated from their families for therapy, while treatment focused on their individual symptomatic behaviors to treat their psychological problems. Conversely, Family Therapy believes that the dominant forces in our lives stem from the family, and are located externally, in the system.
Though both philosophies offered an approach to treatment, family therapy ushered in a whole new way of understanding and explaining human behavior. The premise of family therapy is centered around the concept that families repeat themselves and psychological problems are developed and maintained in the social context of the family. What happens in one generation will often replicate itself in the next. This new contextual perspective relocated the responsibility for the problems and the hub of treatment from the internal world of the individual patient to the entire family. The family therapist recognizes the familial patterns, reinforcing the positive and facilitating change of the negative by understanding legacies, secrets and unspoken messages passed down through the generations of the family.
In my practice, I work with families that are dealing with co-dependency, addiction, divorce or separation, disruptive children (especially those labeled ADD/ADHD—Attention Deficit or similar disorders), death or loss (of a family member), and other situations that may affect the whole family unit. Depending upon need, condition, and circumstance, therapy can be provided in a patient’s home.
When to seek help
- Members are not getting along
- Your time together is missing pleasure, joy, comfort
- You are not feeling understood and appreciated
- You are wanting to run away