yes, therapy helps!
Systemic therapy: what is it and on what principles is it based?

Systemic therapy: what is it and on what principles is it based?

June 14, 2024

The systemic approach or is the application of the general theory of systems in any discipline: education, organizations, psychotherapy, etc.

This approach is presented as a systematic and scientific way of approaching and representing reality viewed from a holistic and integrating perspective , where the important thing is the relationships and the components that emerge from them. From there emerges the systemic therapy.

Therefore, its study and practice place special importance on the relationship and communication in any group that interacts, understood as a system. This approach also extends to individual people, taking into account the different systems that make up their context.


Systemic therapy: another way of doing therapy

The systemic therapy understands the problems from contextual framework and focuses on understanding and changing the dynamics of relationships (family, work, etc.) .

The roles and behaviors of people in these contexts are understood to be determined by the unspoken rules of that system and the interaction among its members.

Understanding disorders in a multi-causal way

Until then, in the field of psychotherapy, mental illness was understood in linear terms, with historical and causal explanations of the condition. First, the cause is sought and then the treatment is processed. The systemic therapy model (widely used in family therapy), observe the phenomena in a circular and multicausal manner, therefore, linear markers can not be established . To give an example, within a family, members behave and react in unpredictable ways because each action and reaction continually changes the nature of the context.


Paul Watzlawick was a pioneer in distinguishing linear causality and circular causality, to explain the various repetitive patterns of interaction possible and marking a before and after in the interpretation of difficulties in personal relationships. The circular view of the problems it is marked by how the behavior of one individual influences the actions of another, which in turn also influences the first.

So, Systemic therapy offers a circular, interactive vision, inside the system or group that has its transformation rules and self-controls through feedback phenomena to maintain a state of equilibrium . The components of the system come into contact through communication, one of the keys to this therapy.

The beginnings of systemic therapy

Systemic therapy arises during the thirties as a support to professions from different fields: psychiatry, psychology, pedagogy and sexology. Even though the movement starts in Germany thanks to Hirschfeld, Popenoe is the first to apply it in the United States. Later, Emily Mudd developed the first family therapy assessment program in Philadelphia.


John Bell, his most popular reference

Many claim that the father of modern family therapy is John Bell , a professor of psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, since in 1951 he performed joint therapy with the whole family of a very aggressive young man and obtained excellent results. That is why in many citations mark this moment as the beginning of systemic therapy.

From here, many have applied and spread the principles of systemic therapy in different areas. For example Nathan Ackerman, in child psychiatry, Theodore Lidz specialized in working with families of schizophrenic patients and was the first to explore the role of parents in the schizophrenia process. Bateson, who was an anthropologist and philosopher, and studied the family structure of the tribes of the islands of Bali and New Zealand along with his wife Margaret Mead.

Brief therapy develops from systemic therapy

Since the early 70s, it was suggested that the systemic model could be applied to a single individual even if the whole family did not attend , and that supposes a development of brief therapy of the MRI of Palo Alto.

The Brief Systemic Therapy is a set of procedures and intervention techniques that aim to help individuals, couples, families or groups to mobilize their resources to achieve their objectives in the shortest possible time , and has its origin in systemic therapy.

In the mid-70s, a group formed by Paul Watzlawick, Arthur Bodin, John Weakland and Richard Fisch, established the "Brief Therapy Center". This group developed what is now known throughout the world as the Model of Palo Alto, generating a radical change in psychotherapy, by developing a brief, simple, effective and effective model to help people produce change.

The praxis of systemic therapy

Systemic therapy is characterized as a practical rather than an analytical approach to problem solving. It does not matter so much the diagnosis of who the patient is or who has the problem (for example, who is it that has a problem of aggression), it focuses on identifying dysfunctional patterns within the behavior of the group of people (family, employees, etc.), in order to redirect these patterns of behavior directly.

Systemic therapists help systems find balance. Unlike other forms of therapy, for example psychoanalytic therapy, the objective is to approach in a practical way the current patterns of the relationship, rather than causes, as in this example may be the subconscious impulses of a childhood trauma trauma.


Systemic Family Therapy (June 2024).


Similar Articles