Monday, October 23, 2017

Theories and Methods - Family Systems Theory

Family systems theory may or may not show up on the licensed clinical social work exam. And you may never practice family therapy. But the language of family systems theory can still come in handy, in clinical practice and in life. Take a moment to review.

Family systems theory springs from the work of Murray Bowen (you'll sometimes see it labelled "Bowenian Family Therapy"). It posits that clients cannot be understood on their own, but as a part of a larger system--their family--which is seen as an emotional unit unto itself.

Family roles, rules, boundaries, and patterns are all foci of family systems therapist, who turn to Bowen's eight interlocking concepts as they practice. They are: triangles, differentiation of self, nuclear family emotional systems, family projection process, multigenerational transmission process, emotional cutoff, sibling position, and societal emotional process.

Some of these have entered the vernacular--or, at least, the therapy vernacular. If you see any of them show up on the social work licensing exam, you can know with some confidence that you're facing a question about family systems theory and answer accordingly. Good luck.

For more reading about family systems theory, including quick definitions of the eight interlocking concepts, take a look at

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