Family systems therapy is the theory that people can be understood by their relationships with the individuals that exist in their family. The idea that an individuals behaviour (good or bad) is linked with the behaviours and attitudes they have learned and adapted from their immediate family.
The family system works in some way or another thus in a therapeutic process we examine the dynamics of assigned roles, power interplay, inter-personal relationship structures e.t.c to find meaningful and progressive avenues to avoid destructive patterns from re-occurring through members of the family. This part of our program is referred to Family Systems Therapy.
Recovery Direct is the first and only centre in South Africa and possibly in the world, that offers fully integrated Family Support Structure as an integral part of “patient zero” treatment.
There is a dedicated family treatment unit, into which the entire family can be admitted to receive a broad range of individual counselling sessions, combined sessions with partners, as well as combined sessions in various combinations with every family member. Treatment for the family is essential, as each person has inevitably been affected by the disorder being experienced by the original patient.
Recovery Direct has proven that the recovery rate of the entire family is significantly accelerated when each member, individually and collectively undergo counselling support alongside the initial patient.
System therapy is also known as family therapy and relational therapy. The family is the system of which one person is a member of biological, legal, effective, geographical and historical ties. According to the founders of system therapy, human problems are core problems that arise between people who are members of their respective family systems. The underlying idea is that if one of the members has a problem in a system (family, partner relationship) the entire system may be disrupted. Conversely, one can help an individual the strengthening the entire family system this harbours a far more effective treatment methodology and recovery ecosystem in which the affected individuals can progress.
Ultimately, Family therapy is a form of treatment where a therapist works with a greater family instead of only working with affected individuals. The purpose is to make the family work as a “social unit” by making alterations to the formats in which they communicate and behave toward each other.
Treating of family relationships and providing parental guidance advice has been part of social work for quite some time. Many related principals of family therapy, are used in marriage counselling where the therapist plays a role “working on the relationships as a whole” and not specifically on the individual issues that brought the family into counselling in the first place. In Western culture it is common to understand family therapy in relation to traditional “social work” however this is not the only context where family therapy applies. With addiction in the family there are frequently more complex boundaries and coping mechanisms that need to be addressed before meaningful progress can be attained.
Family therapists can have different backgrounds and base resolution theories off a range of models dependant on particular working mechanics of the family in therapy. One of the more common themes is creating the train of thought (within and from the family) as to what an “optimally functioning” or “ideal functioning” family can or should be, then normalising expectations into constructive paths and instilling tasks and guided techniques based on individuals inputs as to re-establish the family as a unit as a structure.
The concepts of family relationships and their importance to childhood development has been with psychologists and psychiatrists as far back as the 1900’s. However, the idea of gathering the family together and working directly with all relationships is a far more modern concept (even by today’s standards), made popular by the wide-spread adoption of marriage counselling and parenting counselling.
Several therapies, models and techniques were developed in the United States in the 1970s and 80s. These were partly based on an experience that it was not always enough for clients / patients to work in isolation – it had to happen inside the family circle if one should avoid relapses. Some therapists went so far as to assert that when one member of a family did not work socially, it was because the member was demonstrating the family’s greater dysfunction, thus contributing to the rest of the others being able to function.
To correct such a dynamics so that everyone in the family could function progressively to aid the primary patient became a goal. Working methods could be varied according to what one considered would work best in relation to the family their social backgrounds and the objectives of treating the patient.
Addiction affects the whole family! – no matter what “substance” is used (alcohol, drugs, drugs, gambling, work, sex or anything else). Families spend so much time looking past the immediate problem or pretending nothing is wrong than actually getting down to the uncomfortable task of addressing the present situation with the affected person. Addicts frequently use this time and oversight to plan or “hide” their addictions or manipulate the family to inadvertently accept and support their addiction. This can and frequently does happen over years (especially with respect to drugs like alcohol).
“I have no problem at all”
“I can easily control my alcohol/drug/prescription consumption”
“I can quit when I want to”
There are a thousands excuses that further enable addicts to continue their addictions and over time many families get caught up in the excuse cycle to such a degree that they land up further enabling their loved ones, making the process of recovery exponentially harder. Understanding these cycles and interplay relationships is fundamental in establishing the right boundaries and support structures required to free addicts of their addictions.
As the closest family to an addict, abuse will cause a wide range of counterproductive feelings and emotions. Often these emotions include anger, guilt and shame over their own, and perhaps lack of action – a sense of impotence that is important to solve. For the family, abuse abuses everyday, and what was completely unacceptable a few years back has suddenly become everyday. Children and spouses must take the role of the one who monitors and controls or takes responsibility for the addict.
Breaking this cycle can be a difficult process and often requires specialist help. However, it is important that both the dependent and the close family members, each embark on this process taking responsibility for their own actions and well-being whilst being supportive and empathetic to the greater process of treatment.
Our family therapy services provide deeper insights into the mechanisms and roles that arise in a family conflicts. With any substance addiction or addictive processes in play. Understanding is crucial for the shifts required to beat addiction and live a life in sobriety and away from self-defeating behaviours.
A large proportion of addicted individuals have a very low self-esteem. A family is only functioning well if everyone begins to understand the sources of these emotions and makes progressive steps to support individuals that are not in a capacity to support themselves.
In Bowen’s theory, a triangle – a relationship between three people – is the smallest stable relationship unit. Although two-person relationships can exist, family systems theory assumes that these relationships are prone to becoming unstable as one or both partners become anxious. Though emotional triangles have the potential to be stable for everyone involved, they often are not. A frequent scenario found in emotional triangles is that two people are in agreement with each other and the third is in conflict with them. This can lead to interpersonal and emotional problems for the person in conflict with the others.
Differentiation of Self
In family systems theory, differentiation of self refers to a person’s sense of identity and ability to function on their own, rather than as a member of a group. A person’s level of differentiation determines how confident they are in themselves and how much validation they need from others. Someone with a low level of differentiation usually requires a great deal of approval from others in their family and social groups. They may feel emotionally bound to the group and the other people in it. A person with a high level of differentiation, on the other hand, is emotionally self-sufficient and requires less validation from family and peers. Someone with a high level of differentiation can still interact emotionally with their group, but they are not personally dependent on the group.
Family Projection Process
The family projection process is the process by which parents transfer their worries, anxieties, and other emotional problems to their children. The projection process starts with the parent worrying that something is wrong with the child. Whether this fear is based in reality or not, the parent interprets the child’s behavior as confirmation of their fear. They then treat the child as if their fear was true – even if the problem is all in the parent’s mind. The family projection process can lead to children inheriting their parents’ emotional problems.
When a relationship between two people or groups is fraught with difficulties, one party may decide to cut off emotional contact with the other in an attempt to ease the tension. Though this may bring some short-term relief, cutting a person or group off emotionally may cause more stress in the long term because it leaves the underlying problems unresolved.
Multigenerational Transmission Process
In family systems theory, the multigenerational transmission process refers to the way people seek out partners who are similar to them in terms of differentiation and pass these traits on to their children. For instance, someone with a high level of differentiation is most likely to seek out a partner who is also highly differentiated from their family. This couple is likely to produce children who are also highly differentiated.