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Family Systems Intervention

Indications for Intervention. In general, family therapy using systems theory therapy is appropriate when evidence of family dysfunction exists. The therapist should be able to notice the relationship between a child’s problems and family dysfunction. Families that lack minimal coping skills are not good candidates for family therapy, e.g., families with insufficient structure to attend regular sessions and single parent families with very young children (Schafer et al., 1984).

Therapeutic Attitude. The family systems therapist uses an active, directive manner in which family strengths are affirmed, interpersonal distance is monitored, and reality is reframed. The therapist respects hierarchies of authority and values, supporting subsystems, and speaks the language of the family, attempting to blend in with the family organization and style–to identify with the children without becoming a child, and with the parents without becoming a parent (Minuchin, 1974). It is important to include all family members in the sessions, or at least think in terms of the entire family. Dysfunctional families resist this attitude because it focuses on the family system and not just the symptomatic member. The therapist must respect the power of the family system and work to show members a better way to live together. Too critical an approach can imply that the therapist is trying to destroy the family rather than maintain it. Therapists need to have resolved their own personal family issues if they are to be helpful in effecting change.