Systemic Intervention

  Systemic theory was based on general systems theory (Bertalanfy, 1968). This is a theory that originally developed in the field of engineering to later find application in other sciences such as economics, biology, and computing.

  System theory is a modern effort to synthesize the different aspects of reality, adopting a holistic and relational perception of the world. 

  For many years, scientists have been trying to explain complicated phenomena starting from their basic constituents, but they were very simple in nature to give a complete interpretation of everything. One of the most solvable problems is the explanation of the behavioral feasibility based on simple, mechanistic processes.

  Systemic theory offered an alternative to this impasse by showing how deliberate behavior appears as a property of a system consisting of simple elements that are not feasible.

  On the same logic, systemic theory has also been applied in the field of psychotherapy and counseling, addressing human "problems" as inherent and dynamic properties of social systems and especially of the family, and not as a characteristic of the individuals who make up this social system.

  By abolishing the established concept of linear causality (ie, the view of social phenomena through the cause-effect relationship), the systemic school broadens the study of every human system as a whole, emphasizing the relations of the parties that make up the system.

What is a system?

  System is a cluster of interdependent and interdependent elements. Any change to a component of the system brings changes throughout the system (Bateson, 1972). The system is not just the sum of its parts, but an organic unit that is qualitatively different from the individual parts that make up it.

A family, a healing or working group, a school class, a business is a human system. Human systems are characterized as :

Hierarchical: they are multi-level, and therefore more complex than non-living systems.

Self-regulating: they are self-controlled as they interact with their environment, constantly adjusting their functions and structure, and sometimes they tend to maintain their stability (homeostasis) and sometimes to overturn and change (entropy).

Dynamically: they are energetic, characterized by deliberate action, and change over time.

What is Family Psychotherapy?

  The main application of systemic theory to psychology is family psychotherapy (Boscolo et al., 1987; Bowen, 1978). The basic human social system of the family, in the systemic approach, is not simply a group of people interacting with each other.

  It is a complex entity with its own structure, rules and objectives, in which the interactions of the members are equally - if not more - important than the members.

  For this reason, it is inappropriate and impossible to understand the behavior of a family member, regardless of the behavior of the other members. In other words, the subject and aim of the therapeutic intervention in systemic family psychotherapy is no longer the individual person but the system of relationships to which the individual belongs.

How does the Systemic Approach to Psychotherapy work?

  In the context of the systemic approach to psychotherapy and counseling, a therapist is understood and treated as a member of a system that is constantly interacting and exchanging information with other members of the system (eg family, classroom, business in which he works, etc.), but at the same time as other smaller or larger systems to which he is a member.

  The request of the individual - the couple or the family - for help is examined by the systemic psychotherapist, always in relation to the specific role and position each member of the system has at this stage of its development.

The therapeutic relationship in the Systemic Model

  The therapeutic relationship itself between the psychotherapist and the patient is a new system with its own dynamics. Apart from the necessary emphasis on the grid of relationships and the quality of the interactions of people seeking help, the systemic psychotherapist does not in any way disregard the key factors that strengthen and enrich the therapeutic relationship itself.

  In particular, the system counselor or psychotherapist knows that the basic therapeutic tool is himself and that, as a member of the psychotherapeutic system, as a member, he can not remain unaffected and merely observe the position of the 'specialist', but instead is required to cultivate an atmosphere of deep empathy, acceptance, and authenticity in the relationship that develops between him and the healer.

The Basic Principles of the Systemic Approach to Psychotherapy :

  • Psychological problems must be perceived within their social and political contexts.

  • Interaction is at the heart of all psychological research and psychotherapeutic practice. Information is communicational in character, facilitated by the relationships and interactions that occur between the parts of the systems.
  • Relationships between people are determined by beliefs and behaviors.

  • The symptom is preserved through behaviors that are repeated, being organized within a problematic social system.

  • The psychotherapist no longer cares about why people behave as they behave (cause), but how they behave (ie the process) and what their consequences are in their relationships with other people .
  • Problems may occur in specific evolutionary stages in which individuals or families are located. It can also arise when people deny 'reality'.

  • The problems presented to counselors are generally expressed through language during discussion. Systemic theory has contributed significantly to understanding the role of language in the therapeutic process.

  • As with most psychotherapy models, the systemic psychotherapist tries to be a listener with empathy. Psychotherapy and counseling are activities in which a psychotherapist and client are above all collaborators.

How Has the Systemic Approach Helped the Evolution of Psychotherapy?

  Changing the psychotherapeutic emphasis from the individual to the systems that interact is parallel to an important epistemological transition, the movement of human sciences from the medecentric to the holistic model of coping with psychosomatic health.

  The systemic approach is in the field of psychotherapy at the same time therapeutic school and metatheory, it is a perceptual framework of interpretation based on which can be explained many phenomena that occur, both in therapy and in life in general, as well as to understand from a different perspective many other therapeutic approaches.

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Angeliki Kokeridou - Niarchou, N.D., MSc, Prof.
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