family systems theory

Family Systems Theory – What is it?

Family Systems Theory – What is it?

Family Systems Theory grew out of old-school psychotherapy.

Why do we do it and why should you? 

Do you ever think your issue comes from your family? 

So did the founders of systems theory back in the day! 

Do you notice that when someone in your family is in a better mood, then you can be in a better mood too? 

It’s almost like we all work together in our family to help nurture each other’s temperaments and responses. 

The founder of family systems theory, Murray Bowen, MD, realized that no therapy issue could be treated outside the context in which it was located. 

Family systems theory promotes the interrelationship of everything to everything else. 

Family systems theory works for couples as well as families! 

How often do we think about the things that make our family the way it is?

How often do we consider how we affect our romantic partner? 

Family systems therapy is based on the idea that each family (or couple) is a unique social system with its own structure and patterns of communication. 

Each family member is impacted by the family system. As a result, a change in one member of the family will affect the family system and the other family members.

If you can get into see a licensed marriage and family therapist, or someone trained in family systems theory, you WILL find the key to long-lasting change. This type of approach is amazing!

Why Family Systems Therapy is Effective

Family therapy can be very effective for any family where one or more members is experiencing emotional distress.

Families dealing with these issues especially may benefit from family therapy: 

  • An eating disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Trauma
  • Families with a high degree of conflict
  • Families with poor communication skills
  • Religious conflicts
  • Values conflicts
  • Divorce
  • Remarriage

How Family Systems Therapy Works 

During family systems therapy, the family works individually and together to resolve a problem that directly affects one or more family members.

Each member has the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings about how they are affected.

So together, the family works to help the individual in distress. 

This approach will help relieve the strain on the family. 

The family learns ways to support and help each other with the goal of restoring family relationships and rebuilding a healthy family system.

Family Systems Theory

These are some of our favorite concepts from Bowen’s Systems Theory:

Emotional Triangles 

In Bowen’s theory, a triangle – a relationship between three people – is the smallest stable relationship unit.

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 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.

It can be someone with a low level of differentiation or with a high level of differentiation, both need to reconnect with the group without losing their personal and individual essence.

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 family projection process can lead to children inheriting their parents’ emotional problems and anxieties from birth! This frequently comes out when you get to your first romantic relationship though!  

Multigenerational Transmission Process

In family systems theory, the multigenerational transmission process means family patterns repeat through generations.

Sibling Position

Many are familiar with this concept that focuses on development due to birth order. 

  • The oldest is the one that would inherit the kingdom and with the most responsibility. 
  • Middle children often grow up to be peacemakers, able to work well with most people.
  • Youngest often become the light-hearted one, the comedian, with a great sense of humor
  • Each child’s sibling position significantly influences the person they eventually become. 


Your family of origin has an impact on who you are and the relationships that you have. 

If you have never considered a family systems therapist or a licensed marriage therapist, you are missing out on the miracles that can happen! 

The most important thing when having problems, especially if you have a willing immediate family system, is to contact a professional trained in this therapy! 


Family Systems Theory

Life Coaching and Therapy (LCAT) is a relationship coaching and sex therapy practice that transforms our clients lives through our flexible, multi-technique approach and pleasure-skills training provided by systemically-trained and licensed therapists!

Our team of compassionate, licensed therapists and certified sex therapists help Millennials and Baby Boomers alike who visit us for a variety of relationship, intimacy and sex problems.

Learn more about how LCAT can help improve your relationship and ignite your sex life at What We Do. Call or text us at 203-733-9600, or make an appointment.