If we are being honest, we would probably agree that most families are pretty complicated. We have shared positive memories and traditions that are important to us. We might nurse grudges and slights we have trouble letting go of. We may have different ideas about politics, religion, and which sports teams to root for—and those different ideas can be a cause of real friction. But in the best cases, that friction falls by the wayside when a member of the family is facing serious challenges. The ways in which family members can rally around one another can be truly inspiring—and can provide essential support in a crisis situation.
Families Facing Challenges
But sometimes, a problem arises that throws a family for a loop. If, for example, a member of the family is struggling with a substance use disorder or a mental health disorder (or both), the rest of the family may struggle to figure out how to respond and help. Some members of the family might feel anger or disappointment, making it hard for them to be compassionate and helpful. Others might feel a lot of sympathy and a desire to be of service, but not know how to do so without enabling the person who is drinking or using drugs to cope with life. And still others might just be inclined to behave like nothing out of the ordinary is happening at all.
Meanwhile, the person who is struggling with the disorder may feel isolated and disconnected from family life. And when that happens, the drug and/or alcohol use or anxiety and/or depression might become even more problematic. It can easily become a vicious and self-reinforcing cycle.
Fortunately, family systems therapy offers a potential way to address these challenges.
What Is Family Systems Therapy?
You probably are not familiar with the name Murray Bowen. But there is a good chance you are familiar with some of his ideas—like the idea that first children tend to be overachievers. In the 1950s, Bowen was a psychiatrist working at the National Institute of Mental Health where he sketched out the principles for family systems therapy. While his emphasis on birth order was largely misplaced, the notion that different family members have different approaches to many things is a helpful idea. Bringing those approaches into alignment so that everyone benefits is one of the objectives of family systems therapy.
Of course, getting everyone on the same page is likely going to require some challenging conversations—maybe even some tense confrontations. That is why a trained therapist is a key component of the family systems therapy model. A family therapist will help all of the family members work together to discover better ways to support one another. The hope is that issues that are undermining trust and healthy relationships might be resolved. If someone in the family is dealing with a substance use disorder and/or a mental health disorder, family systems therapy can help the whole family unit work together to help the person in healthy and productive ways.
Family Systems Therapy Is Useful in Any Number of Situations
Of course, family systems therapy can be helpful in a wide array of situations. In addition to substance use and mental health disorders we have talked about so far, grief, sibling rivalry, financial difficulties, chronic illness, divorce, and more can be addressed in family therapy. The goals remain the same: make sure every voice is heard, find common ground and mutual understanding of differences, and move forward as a team that can effectively meet one another’s needs. Family systems therapy can help strengthen ties between people and make the family unit more resilient going forward.
Peak View Behavioral Health Can Help the Whole Family
You might think that a treatment center like Peak View Behavioral Health only helps those who are personally struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder. But we know these issues have an impact on entire families, and our services are intended to help everyone involved. We offer educational programming to help family members understand how they can best help their loved ones. We can also provide guidance for making lasting changes at home and in family interactions. And we can connect you to resources to make sure you find the right family systems therapist to help your family.