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Family System Therapy

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Family System Therapy essay
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This essay aims to compare and contrast the classical Bowen Family System Therapy to the more modern Solution Focused Therapy. A focus will be placed on both the theories side-by-side in order to gain a perspective on the theoretical, conceptual and practical underpinning of these approaches.

Previous literature has indicated that Bowen Family System therapy and Solution Focused therapy are significantly different. Bowen family system opposes linear cause-and-effect thinking. On the other hand, Solution Focused therapy is theoretically driven by cause-and-effect thinking (Piercy, Sprenkle, & Wetchler, 1996; Soo Mei Yoke, 2012). Murray Bowen claims that his theory is universal and he approached his work with this goal in mind, to produce a universal theory for family system therapy (Bowen, 1978). The result of this goal is the Bowen Family System that provides by far, the most comprehensive view of human behaviour and problems (Nichols, 2010, pp 137; Soo Mei Yoke, 2012).

The creators of Solution Focused therapy, Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg; were not interested in developing a universal family system theory. However, they aimed to develop a therapeutic model that is not only brief but also highly effective (de Shazer & Berg, 1992). During a time when family therapy counsellors were focused on interventions, Bowen focused instead on system theory as a way of thinking (Bowen, 1978). Underpinning his theory are firstly, the implication that multigenerational family network shapes the individual. He believed that clinical patterns that are often hidden come into focus when the family is viewed as a unit.

Secondly, that the individual has less autonomy over their emotions than assumed and undifferentiated individuals have limited autonomous identity (Bowen, 1960; Nichols, 2010, pp 115; Soo Mei Yoke, 2012). Following in Bowen’s approach, Solution Focused therapists turned around the traditional view by shifting the therapeutic understanding away from pathological problems to possible solutions (Soo Mei Yoke:2012; de Shazer & Berg, 1992). Therefore, instead of a problem-maintaining system, solution focused therapy seeks to help clients identify exceptions to the time the problems exists.

For instance, in the place of asking the client to describe the history of their problem, they help the client formulate a detailed resolution to their presenting problem (de Shazer, 1982; de Jong & Berg, 2007). Furthermore, both approaches appear to have similar opinions about what contributes to normal family development. Bowen’s concept of normal family development is one of differentiation among the family members, anxiety is low and there is positive emotional contact between family members.

In understanding the development of the family system, Bowenian therapists believe that emotional fusion that is passed down from one generation to the next is the cause of psychological problems (Nichols, 2010 ; Soo Mei Yoke, 2012 ). Normal family development according to Solution Focused therapist produces families with flexible structures. Similarly, to Bowen’s concept of normal family development, differentiated individuals need to have clear boundaries and flexible structures and well-organised hierarchies.

As this promotes low anxiety and therefore generates positive emotional contact between family members. The difference is that instead of being past-focused, Solution Focused therapy constantly avoids the past and focuses their clients as much as possible on the present and future. (Nichols, 2010; Soo MeiYoke, 2012). According to the Bowen Family Systems Therapy, the ability to handle stress is correlated to an individual’s level of differentiation. The more differentiated a person, the more resilient the person (Nichols, 2010, pp 120).

Solution Focused Therapy has no concept or theory about the development of behaviour disorder. Furthermore, a Solution Focused therapist may argue that by labelling a person, attention is being drawn towards the problem and away from the solution (de Shazer, et al., 1986; Nichols, 2010; Soo Mei Yoke, 2012). Solution focused counsellors are of the view that patient diagnosis and client resistance does not exist except in the mind of the therapists (de Shazer & Berg, 1992; de Shazer, 1988). Actually, solution focused therapists are again on opposite perspectives when it comes to therapeutic goals. According, Bowen family systems therapy, therapeutic goals are to help people understand themselves and their relationships better with the assumption that they can then assume the responsibility for resolving their own problems.

In fact, counsellors see themselves as educators; they are not interested in actively helping their clients to solve their problems (Nichols, 2010 Soo Mei Yoke, 2012). However, solution focused counsellor’s only one focus and that is to help people solve their presenting problems in the shortest timeframe possible. They are not interested in the past or in conducting in-depth multigenerational analysis of their client’s family history (de Shazer & Berg, 1992; de Shazer, 1988).

As Solution Focused therapy believes that it is not necessary for them to reconstruct and restructure their client’s family in order to help their client resolve their presenting problem. Firstly, solution focused counsellors ask their clients for their therapeutic goals and if the goals are vague, help the client to establish clearer goals and then, help the client to in the shortest time possible (de Shazer, 1991). Whereas during therapy, Bowen counsellors often adopt an avoidance state, as they are always wary about becoming emotionally entangled and avoid being pulled into triangles (Bowen, 1992; Soo Mei Yoke, 2012). Another difference includes that, Solution Focused therapists on adopt a directive state during therapy. They directly lead guide their clients towards seeking solutions and resolutions (de Shazer, 1982; Soo Mei Yoke, 2012).

On the other hand, in order for an individual to change their behaviour, Bowen Family Systems believes that they need to be able to distinguish between thinking and feeling. Once they are able to make that distinction, they can then resolve their relationship problems in a low anxiety way. Moreover, for an individual to change their behaviour is for the individual to increase his self-focus. By increasing their self-focus they can then understand their own roles in the interpersonal processes. Although, Bowen therapy does not involve helping the clients to solve their problems, the therapists’ stance is central to the success of therapy. A counsellor needs to be able first, tolerate anxiety, second practice differentiation and avoid triangulation, third ask questions to foster self-reflection and direct them to individuals one at a time.

Finally, encourage individuals to look for their own role in processes (Bowen, 1971; Nichols & Schwartz, 2009; Soo Mei Yoke, 2012). The main techniques of Solution Focused therapy are; firstly, the miracle question. The purpose of this question is to invite clients to create a mental picture of their goal and to focus them on finding solutions to their problems. Secondly, exploring or probing for exceptions to the problem and bringing into the client’s awareness that they may already have the solution to the problem. Thirdly, scaling questions are useful because they help the client in increasing their confidence in keeping their resolution and minimise resistance.

These also allow the client to break down goals in to smaller more successful steps of change. Lastly, both compliments and coping questions aim to highlight to the client their strengths, accomplishments and inner resources. The importance placed on assessment is another area where Bowenian and Solution Focused therapy differ. Bowen Family Systems therapy places greater importance on detailed assessment than any other form of therapy. In order for the Bowenian therapist to help individuals understand their own role in their family’s problems and how those problems that they facing are embedded in the history of their extended family, a through and detailed assessment is necessary. It is common for the Bowen genogram to extend down three generations or more (Kerr & Bowen, 1988; Nichols, 2010 Soo Mei Yoke, 2012 ).

The genogram is a useful tool for collecting and organising information collected. Once completed, it can help the client understand their own role in the process. Some other techniques of Bowens Family Systems include process questioning that is designed to explore the internal experience of individuals and between individuals and triangle which refers to alliances within relationships. Research studies have tested the application and effectiveness of both Solution Focused therapy and Bowens Family Systems therapy. According to Davarniya, Zahrakar & Nazari (2018) brief solution-focused couple therapy is effective in reducing couple burnout, especially in women. The results showed that brief solution-focused couple therapy has been able to significantly reduce couple burnout in the post-test stage and in the follow-up stage.

Therefore, it can be used for reducing marital problems among couples. Similarly, Brown, (2007) investigated the effectiveness of family system therapy in boredom and forgiveness among the couples, affected by extramarital relationships of the spouse. The findings of this study demonstrated that family system therapy has been effective in marital boredom and forgiveness among the couples affected by extramarital relationships of the spouse in the experimental group compared to the control group In conclusion, Solution Focused therapy is better adapted to current demand for brief therapy.

However, Bowen Family System therapy continue to distinguish itself by directing the counsellors in this area, to consider their own role within their family of origin and therefore the opportunity to personally experience the theory.

Family System Therapy essay

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Family System Therapy. (2020, Sep 08). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/family-system-therapy/


What are the 4 family systems?
The nuclear family emotional process is composed of four relationship patterns that govern familial problems: Marital Conflict, Dysfunction in one spouse, Impairment of one or more Children, and Emotional Distance : All of the nuclear family emotional processes can overlap.
What are the 8 concepts of family systems theory?
The Bowen's family systems theory is composed of eight interlocking concepts: Triangles, Differentiation of Self, Nuclear Family Emotional Process, Family Projection Process, Multigenerational Transmission Process, Emotional Cut-Off, and Sibling Positions .
What is a system family therapy?
Family systems therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on the family as a whole unit . A central tenet of this approach is that a family is an emotional unit and individual behavior must be considered from the context of the family.
What is family systems theory psychology?
Family systems theory (Kerr and Bowen, 1988) is a theory of human behavior that defines the family unit as a complex social system, in which members interact to influence each other's behavior . Family members interconnect, allowing to view the system as a whole rather than as individual elements.
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