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Systemic therapy and your social network

Systemic therapy looks at people not as isolated individuals, but as parts of various relationships and networks (romantic, familial, platonic, professional etc), and deals with the interactions and dynamics of these groups to improve the wellbeing of its members.

Taking the gaze of therapy away from the individual

Some forms of therapy try to explore the deeper, sometimes unconscious impulses and influences that affect our emotions, cognitions, behaviour and well-being. We might be invited to reexamine our past to understand how events and relationships from long ago might be affecting us now, in the present.

Not so with systemic therapy. This therapy isn’t concerned with whether there’s something ‘wrong’ with you, or your level of psychological health, and then labeling you with a ‘diagnosis’. Neither does it focus on you as an individual with a past, and with a set of feelings which you may be able to change. Instead, systemic therapy is concerned with the social ‘systems’ within which you live and work.

Families, groups, teams, hierarchies–in fact any context where social relationships are living and working–are the ‘systems’ of systemic therapy. Individuals within these systems relate to one another, and create a complex network with groups and sub-groups, all of which in turn relate to each other. These relationships produce certain patterns of behaviour, which the systemic therapist believes can be changed, by changing the way the system operates.

The Systemic Therapist

So a therapist might work with you individually, or with a group you are a part of, and together, you explore the relationships, the communications, and the patterns of behaviour happening right now, any of which may be restricting emotional growth in individuals or groups of individuals, limiting satisfaction or perhaps preventing progress and fulfilment.

With an individual–rather than a family or a group of people at work–the way a therapist might begin is to ask about ‘the problem’ the client brings to therapy. Then, the client might be asked how others view the same problem, and how others regard the relationships involved.

Relationships produce particular patterns of behaviour

Systemic therapists do a lot of questioning, and they ask the client to imagine scenarios, and reactions, and to explore hypothetical situations. They are more active during sessions than some other therapists, in that they are likely to bring specific suggestions into the frame — and a great deal of ‘what ifs?’ might be proposed, using a variety of different times, contexts, and further hypothetical consequences.

The therapist’s aim is to ‘reframe’ the problem in some way, perhaps in several ways. The client is supported to see the problem in a different way, and to stop feeling trapped, or ‘frozen’ by it. It has shown good results in individuals with relationship difficulties, or those are experiencing problems with their family communications Zurich Prime.

The House Partnership, 4th November 2014

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