Family Systems Therapy

Family Systems Theory was developed by Murray Bowen, M.D. and views the family as an emotional unit (Constantine, 1986). Family Systems therapists believe that family members are connected on deep emotional levels. Consequently, family members impact one another’s feelings and behaviors.

Family Systems Therapy focuses on the family’s boundaries. For example, when a family’s boundaries are “open”, they may welcome and interact with external influences that can facilitate healthy change. In contrast, when a family’s system is “closed, the family can become isolated and thus unable to change when needed.

Therapists utilizing Family Systems Therapy may work with their patients to create a genogram: a family diagram that can lead to increased understanding of the familial relationships. Families are encouraged to view their problems as being multigenerational rather than as belonging to a specific individual. Family members are assisted with becoming differentiated in order to increase their ability to cope and manage anxiety independently. Goals of Family Systems Therapy include developing well-defined boundaries so that families can adapt to future changes.