What is Family Therapy and Systemic Practice?
Family therapy and systemic practice is a form of therapy that seeks to help individuals, couples, or families find solutions to the difficulties they are experiencing. Family therapy systemic therapists don’t just work with families; they also work as effectively with individuals.
Family therapy and Systemic practice is a well researched, cost-effective and evidenced-based therapy of choice for supporting neurodivergent and neurotypical children, adolescents and adults, in addressing a wide range of difficulties (Carr, 2019a; Carr, 2019b).
For children and adolescents, these include:
• Sleeping, feeding or attachment problems
• Behaviour problems, both at home and elsewhere (i.e. school)
• Difficulties where anxiety is a feature (i.e. PTSD, OCD, phobias and selective mutism)
• Difficulties where depression is a feature
• Self harm
• Eating disorders
• Pervasive adolescent behaviour problems (which may include offending behaviours or substance misuse)
For adults, these include:
• Relationship distress (either couples or wider family)
• Psychosexual problems
• Intimate partner violence
• Difficulties where anxiety is a feature (I.e. generalised anxiety, panic disorder, agoraphobia, OCD and PTSD)
• Bi-polar disorder
• Addiction (i.e. alcohol problem)
• Chronic illness
Research demonstrates that Family Therapy and Systemic practice is as effective or, in some cases, more effective than individual therapy. Research also shows that it can increase the efficacy of either individual therapy or pharmacological treatments when used in combination (Carr, 2018; Carr, 2019a; Carr, 2019b).
How does Family Therapy and Systemic practice differ from other therapeutic modalities?
Unlike other modalities, Family therapy and Systemic practice explicitly acknowledge the wholeness of an individual’s experiences and life and draws attention to the relationship between internal and external factors.
To paraphrase John Donne’s 17th-century poem, “No one is an Island”, all people know this basic tenet, which forms a central plank of Family Therapy and Systemic Practice. Human beings are relational, all of us, from the day we are born, and in our unique ways, all engage with the world and with people, and in turn, they engage with us. Over time, many events occur, and patterns emerge in the way people relate to and interact with each other. These patterns can help, but sometimes, for whatever reason, these patterns become stuck and maladaptive. At these times, it is not only one person who experiences difficulties but invariably many family members or wider system members.
The therapist’s role is to work collaboratively with individuals, family, friends or other professionals to problem solve, explore new possibilities and find new ways of supporting one another to enjoy better mental health and experience more fulfilling ways of living and relating to each other. There is a deep belief that these solutions are found by working openly together, implementing small strategies and step by step building on these changes.
Carr, A. (2019a). Family therapy and systemic interventions for child‐focused problems: the current evidence base. Journal of Family Therapy, 41(2), 153 213. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-6427.12226
Carr, A. (2019b). Couple therapy, family therapy and systemic interventions for adult‐focused problems: the current evidence base. Journal of Family Therapy, 41(4), 492–536. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-6427.12225