Systemic Family Therapy (FTAI) incorporates individual, couple and family therapy.
What is special about Family Therapy?
Family Therapy is the most popularly recognised descriptive title for a body of practice and theory which continues to evolve and to grow at an extraordinary rate. Originally, the approach was distinguished by the practice of including entire families in the therapy process rather than an individual client. This practice continues, but is not a necessary aspect of the approach.
The principle which informed Family Therapy from the time of its inception in the 1950s has been to transcend simple cause and effect explanations which located deficits within the individual, and to include those aspects of the client’s context in the therapy process which will enable them to manage, resolve or better understand their difficulty.
It is this ecological view which attends to the interconnectedness of people, of beliefs and of all things, which characterises Family Therapy rather than the number of people sitting in the therapy room.
How do Family Therapists view problems and reality?
Many Family Therapists seek to engage the clients in a collaborative exploration of their presenting dilemma, focusing on the beliefs, and the interactions which maintain the difficulty or which prevent its resolution. By better understanding the interconnectedness of the biological, the social and the psychological dimensions of the problem, choices are introduced, conflicts are transcended and new patterns of understanding are generated.
A significant part of each one’s experience is the beliefs, the language, the stories and values which constitute our life experience. We are not only born into a material and physical reality, but also into a multilayered complex weave of beliefs and behaviours, which for most of us are, initially at least, of a family nature. This strongly influences our developing ‘reality’. We are born into the world totally dependent on one or more caring adults, and if the constitutional and contextual aspects of our lives are supportive enough, we learn to operate more independently and to exercise choice in our lives more effectively. This requires an appreciation of the interdependence of our lives, of the world in which we live, and the limits and possibilities which it contains.
We constantly explore the limits and possibilities of relying on previous learning and exploring new ways and new beliefs. We may be strongly influenced to find ways of being which contrast with some of our significant life experiences, or we may repeat our experiences, often with the assumption that this is how the world is, and how everyone should be.
When two or more people live in close proximity, we can expect that differences, and inevitably conflicts, will ensue. This is part of the rich weave of our lives which continue to challenge us and to teach us.
Sometimes, our adult lives may be thrown into inner turmoil, we may experience self-doubts, destructive feelings or immobilising depression or anxiety. These disturbing experiences may be triggered by what would be relatively small or manageable difficulties for others, and even for ourselves in somewhat different circumstances. Such problems are frequently related to early life and usually early family aspects of our lives. Our difficulty trusting others, exercising choice or living with an adequate level of autonomy may be related to not having had sufficiently secure, loving or affirming experiences in our early family relationships.
More recent traumas, abuse, oppression or unresolved conflict may also contribute to distressing inner feelings, which can be successfully resolved in Family Therapy.
What do Family Therapists do?
Family Therapists universally employ the most inclusive frame to help clients make sense of their doubts or confusions. Some Family Therapists put most emphasis on exploring the beliefs, some the language and stories and some the repeating behaviour patterns. They may also elect to examine the attempted solutions or to focus attention on experiences which work well for the client, their successful solutions.
How many attend Family Therapy together?
The extent to which Family Therapists will emphasise including others in the process also varies. With relationship problems, we usually prefer to include the main participants. It is not uncommon for parents to successfully attend a series of consultations regarding one of their children, without the child being present.
Extended family members may be invited or partners or others who are significantly involved in the client’s life and difficulty. It is also common for individuals to attend alone, when the focus will include the significant relationships of their lives as the context of their emotional and psychological realities. Agreeing who will attend is usually an integral part of the exploratory process.
Some Family Therapists may also apply their systemic perspective to organisations such as schools, voluntary agencies, businesses and especially to family businesses. Consultation can help organisations to resolve intra organisations relationship problems and to address and to improve procedures and practices which influence their relationship with their consumers.
The systemic consultant’s focus will, again, include the context of the problem and can result in appreciating and fine tuning the ways in which the organisation responds to internal change and the range of changing external needs. The organisation, as the individual, can benefit by developing capacities of self-direction and responsivity.
The Secretary, FTAI,
73, Quinn’s Road,
Tel: (01) 2722105