Sunday, November 13, 2011

More Family Systems Theory

Sometimes you don't have time or interest in reading the whole article.  Fortunately, I do, so here are some excerpts I've pulled out just for you . . .
1.     "Family systems theory - or 'systems thinking' - represents a hallmark of family therapy and the many clinical approaches that it encompasses.  Key theoretical underpinnings including:
  • attention to relational factors,
  • interaction sequences,
  • social and political contexts, and
  • extra-therapeutic factors
guide everything we do."
2.     "Moving beyond primarily individual-oriented intervention strategies (and those focused on groups of individuals) in conventional approaches to psychological first aid and trauma responding, family therapy commands explicit attention to individual, relational and family systems as bounded sets of interrelated elements.  Family therapists bring an overt sensitivity to inter-member processes that are related to increased stress in the contexts of disaster (e.g. family conflict, over-functioning/under-functioning patterns) and trauma work, as well as opportunities to foster and push positive relational and family dynamics in both acute and long-term phases of support."
3.     "Family therapists...readily conceptualize 'systems' in accord with the biopsychosocial family systems model...to consider multiple and interconnected systems, including patients'. . .
  • anatomical and physiological make-up (e.g. brain structure, somatic symptoms), 
  • psychological functioning (e.g. PTSD, depression, anger, sense of hope and/or hopelessness),
  • relational and family systems (e.g. attachment, communication, boundaries, cohesion, adaptability), 
  • and larger social and ecosystemic structures (e.g. supportive peer and friendship networks, contemporary political milieux, neighbourhood wealth/poverty).
4.     "...we must honour the complexities of these multiple and interconnected systems, as they are all relevant and influence each other."

5.     "...integrating psychoanalytic ideas with systemic practices can contextualize individuals' respective functioning within families - and thereby synthesize competing perspectives in healing and growth..."
6.     "...argues for integrating such approaches, highlighting how attention to family members' unique attachment histories influences the manners in which they experience trauma - thereby informing therapists' effective intervening and care."
7.     "Finally, systems thinking commands that we recognize and honour our own roles in the process of helping.  For example, attention to our personal emotional processes, self-care, and preventing burnout and compassion fatigue are not only important for our own and other team members' sake, but for the safety and well-being of the people and families we serve."
8.     "A 25-year-old woman who lost her colleague to suicide stated that she will tell her other colleagues daily what she appreciates about them so that they never feel unappreciated and lonely."
9.     "Regardless of what discipline ultimately brought us to it, providers of mental health entered this business to ease the suffering of those who are hurting, and to empower their growth and resolve in the face of hardshipWe can do this from a variety of professional platforms, in collaboration and synchrony with each other.
10.     "Common systems themes such as appropriate hierarchies (e.g. executive power), subsystems (e.g. parents, children/siblings), and interpersonal boundaries (e.g. as they relate to sexual behaviour or self-disclosure) are valuable concepts with which to inform teams' decision-making processes, overall structure and ongoing functioning.  In our own work, we have learned to address these challenges through straightforward and frank conversations with colleagues, supervisors and students - and maintain that these challenges call for consistent attention and diligence so that the safety of all team members is ensured and that ethical violations are not committed."

Mendenhall, T.J., & Berge, J.M. (2010).  Family therapists in trauma-response teams:  bringing systems thinking into interdisciplinary fieldwork.  Journal of Family Therapy, 32, 43-57. 

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