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Systems Theory Therapy

Counseling Couples and Families from a Systems Perspective

In the past twenty years family therapy has become a major innovative force in the helping professions that has profoundly influenced the way counselors think about and intervene in the lives of their clients (Schafer, Briesmeiste, & Fitton, 1984). Holly Blue focuses on systems theory therapy because it offers family counselors both a conceptual and a practical framework for organizing diagnostic information and evaluating presenting problems.

Generally, the systems perspective views the family as a self-regulating system held together by unspoken rules whose purpose is to maintain itself. Psychological symptoms are viewed as manifestations of a dysfunctional family, and the focus of treatment then becomes the family system, not the problem or symptomatic family member.


Change in family systems counseling derives from a therapist’s affiliation with the family, and from interventions aimed at restructuring the family system in order to transform dysfunctional patterns. New ideas are being formulated about applying systems thinking in different treatment settings, as well as addressing specific problems such as school phobia, delinquency, substance abuse, and a variety of eating disorders. Family systems counseling is seen by some as the ultimate professional challenge and will undoubtedly continue to have a profound impact on the helping professions.


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Bateson, G. (1972). Steps to an ecology of mind. New York: Random House.

Bowen, M. (1978). Family treatment in clinical practice. New York: Jason Aronson.

Haley, J. (1976). Problem solving therapy. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Jackson, D. P., & Weakland, J. H. (1961). Conjoint family therapy: Some considerations on theory, technique, and results. Psychiatry, 24, 30-45.

Klimek, D., & Anderson, M. (1988). Inner world, outer world: Understanding the struggles of adolescence. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan, ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Personnel Services. (ED 290 118)

Liebman, R., Minuchin, S., & Baker, L. (1974). The role of the family in the treatment of anorexia nervosa. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 13, 264-274.

Minuchin, S. (1974). Families and family therapy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Papp, P. (1981). Paradoxes, family therapy techniques. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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Schafer, C. E., Briesmeiste, J. M., & Fitton, M. E. (1984). Family therapy techniques for problem behaviors of children and teenagers. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Selvini-Palazzoli, M. (1978). Paradox and counterparadox. New York: Jason Aronson.

Contact Holly Blue today and get the help you need.