What Is Systemic Therapy? How Can It Help?


The idea behind systemic therapy is that an individual is best understood not as an individual, but as a component of various systems or groups which can include those found in: families, at work, in sports teams and in your social life. This approach can be applied to many situations, the most common being family life – which is why the term ‘systemic therapy’ is often used interchangeably with ‘family therapy’.


How does Systemic Therapy work?

Systemic therapy examines patterns of behaviour and interactions within certain groups in order to find out where the problem lies. The aim of this therapy is to help each member of the group, unit or team to understand each other, develop new ways of communication, create a supportive environment for all those involved, and identify each member’s key contributions and values. This can only be facilitated once the problems have been identified.

This type of therapy is not used to ‘point the finger’ or blame others, it’s aims are to identify problems, and support individuals to change within a supportive environment. It usually involves bringing the system together to discuss how certain behaviours have manifested themselves and how the system can work together to work them out. In this therapy environment, the therapist doesn’t offer solutions or answers but will encourage and enable the members of the group to find their own solutions, working together as a team.


Who is it for?

Systemic therapy (systemic psychotherapy) can aid those in a number of relationships such as: couples, families, carers, professional groups, teams and businesses. Systemic therapy is particularly effective for child and adult focused problems and it can deal with a range of problems in the family life cycle such as child attachment, divorce, and loss.


What can it help with?

Systemic therapy does not always take place inside a ‘therapy’ environment. Many systemic therapists use this methodology within a number of settings and can be found within hospitals, social care, prisons, schools, youth projects or community outreach projects. 

As systemic therapy can be applied to a variety of groups across many situations, it has a number of applications including:


  • Low self esteem
  • Relationship stress or communication breakdown
  • Problems in infancy; sleep, feeding and attachment difficulties
  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Child and adolescent conduct problems such as behavioural difficulties, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and delinquency
  • Emotional problems including anxiety, depression, grief, bipolar disorder, self harm and suicidality
  • Body related problems including enuresis, encopresis, recurrent abdominal pain, medically unexplained symptoms and poorly controlled asthma and diabetes
  • Drug abuse
  • Eating disorders including anorexia, bulimia and obesity
  • Divorce, separation and blended families and cohabitation
  • Social and digital media addictions and concerns
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