In this very social vision of therapy, groups of people operating as units are the proper client to which therapists must address their efforts. Individuals exist, but problems they experience are not individual but rather are social in nature. Social problems can only be comprehended when viewed in their social context.
Not surprisingly, the approach was pioneered by clinicians working with families and couples, and has been championed by the Social Work profession.
Numerous authors contributed to the development of the Family Systems perspective, including influential clinicians such as Virginia Satir, Murray Bowen, Jay Haley and Salvador Minuchin. In today's essay, I want to focus on one important theoretical contribution in particular, made I believe by Dr.follow site
Resilience Theory and Research on Children and Families: Past, Present, and Promise
Minuchin , which is the idea of boundaries, because, in my humble opinion, if you understand about boundaries as they exist in social groups, you have understood the core vision of the Family Systems perspective, and have access to a tremendous conceptual tool useful for understanding how to help patients or yourself. A boundary is a barrier; something that separates two things. Walls, fences and cell membranes are examples of physical boundaries.
Psychological boundaries can be said to exist too, even though such boundaries have no physical reality. Psychological boundaries are constructed of ideas, perceptions, beliefs and understandings that enable people to define not only their social group memberships, but also their own self-concepts and identities. Such boundaries are the basis by which people distinguish between "We" or "I" group members; insiders; part of "Us" and "Other" outsiders and examples of what is "not-self".
Each person can be said to have a psychological identity boundary around themselves by which they distinguish themselves from other people. Like other boundaries, this identity boundary both separates people and also defines how they are linked together. This is to say that the act of drawing the boundary itself provides the basis for saying that one person is separate from another psychologically, but does so only by drawing a distinction between those two people, which implies a relationship, never the less. Self cannot exist without also "Not-self" existing, just as figure cannot exist without ground against which to contrast.
Identity necessarily includes social relationships which are built into the self to varying degrees. Boundaries are also drawn around committed couples, separating them from other people, and in the process making two individuals into an "Us". You could say that the commitment that two people share to be a couple is exactly the boundary they draw around themselves itself. Again, there is no physical reality to the boundary, but it is there nevertheless.
Other sorts of social groups co-workers, board members, etc. Social groups of any size are seldom uniform things. Rather, there are frequently sub-groups that form within larger groups that have special status and power within the group as a whole. The prototype for this sort of power hierarchy is the nuclear family e. Parents function as a powerful and bounded subgroup within the larger group known as the family. Younger children function as a subgroup as well, but one with less power than parents have. Other examples of common power heirarchies include the workplace, where almost always, an executive sub-group has power over a worker sub-group, and government, where a similar sort of executive sub-group governs a sub-group of citizens.
These sort of hierarchies, unevenly sharing power amongst subgroups within larger social groupings is a normal condition. I said that in addition to distinguishing people from one another that boundaries also help to relate people as well.
Family Systems Theory - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics
There is a literal sense in which this is true, having to do with how boundaries function to regulate communications between people. A boundary around parents, for example, is what enables parents to have a private life separate from their children. Parents share confidences and sexual intimacy with one another, secure and trusting in the knowledge that such confidences and intimacies will remain private and not shared with outsiders here including both "outside" outsiders such as true strangers, and "inside" outsiders e. Despite there being a distinct class of information which stays within the boundary that parents draw around themselves, there is also an even larger class of information that parents are free to share with children.
Parents do share their love with their children, for instance, talking to children freely about how they are valued, and providing guidance and discipline to help those children learn how to become responsible healthy adults at least that is ideally how it goes. So boundaries function to keep some information private, while allowing other information to pass through unimpeded They are thus semi-permeable filters, rather than absolute brick walls. Note again that boundaries have no physical reality, but exist nevertheless, being implicit in how people relate to one another.
The boundary between two parents is built of mutual commitment and trust that neither parent will choose to share private information or betray a confidence with non-members of their "group of two" e.
Having covered the preliminaries, we can start to get to the meat of why knowing about boundaries is important for effective therapy. There are ideal shapes that boundaries should have, and ideal filtering capabilities too. Psychological problems are very likely to occur when boundaries get bent far out of their ideal shape or cease to filter information properly.
Such an abstract set of statements as my last paragraph contains cries out for a concrete example, so here is one. Ideally, a family system consisting of parents and children will have a particular shape that works to help insure the mental and emotional health of its members.
Each parent needs to be able to trust the other parent and feel secure in their mutual bond. The parents need to identify themselves as parents and function together to coordinate their children's upbringing. Parents need to keep some information away from children such as information about their sexual relationship, or worrisome information such as the state of family finances, etc. Children ideally need to be allowed an age-appropriate amount of autonomy, but not allowed to have so much autonomy that they feel neglected or not also reigned in when that is necessary.
Most families decidedly don't manage to do all of this perfectly, but many do manage to pull off enough of these goals to make it work. Then there are the families where there are significantly non-ideal and problematic boundaries. The parents who fail to nurture their children, or who nurture them so much that the children feel smothered.
The parents who do not manage to keep their private business private; who sexualize their children before they are ready for that information, or who recruit children into adult confidant roles and confide their loneliness or anger towards the other spouse. The parents who divorce ungracefully and continue to fight after their divorce is complete, using their children as messengers.
There are many examples of how boundary problems within families can create significant pain for family participants. You already most likely know the term used to describe these families whose boundaries are seriously non-ideal. They are called "Dysfunctional Families". That popular term comes out of the Family Systems literature. I said above that boundaries have an ideal shape, and an ideal information filtering ability, but really, if you think about it, a boundary's shape is really a function of its ability to filter information properly.
A functional boundary that works to make family members healthy and happy by keeping information appropriately hidden or available will have a correct and more or less ideal shape.
When the boundary doesn't filter properly when all information passes through, or no information passes through , it will have a wrong shape too. Any given group's or individual's or sub-group's defining boundary can be evaluated based on how well and how situation-appropriately it filters information. Some information needs to be kept private, while other information needs to be shared. Deciding what to share and what to keep private is a moving target and a balancing act, however.
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It is easy to inadvertently share something you're not supposed to share, or to withhold something that would be better to share. Good judgment is called for so that extremes of over-sharing, or under-sharing do not occur. Boundaries that chronically fail to keep people separated enough are typically described as "enmeshed", while boundaries that fail to keep people related enough are described as "detached". As a general rule, it is not a good thing to be too enmeshed or too detached. Family systems that can be characterized by consistently enmeshed or detached subsystems are likely to be Dysfunctional Families in the truest sense of that phrase.
Some examples of dysfunctional family systems will help to illustrate how over-enmeshment and over-detachment function and why it is problematic. Let's consider a common sort of scenario where two married partners with a child have marital problems. Perhaps one of the partners has had one or more sexual or emotional affairs outside the marriage, and this has not been disclosed to the other partner who only knows that something is wrong.
Here is an example of a relationship boundary that has become overly detached, meaning that the boundary around the couple is failing to continue to distinguish them as a couple; the boundary's filter closes down, important information is not shared, and appropriate privacy is not being maintained. Swanson , and insights from educators such as Debora Hammond and Alfonso Montuori. As a transdisciplinary, interdisciplinary and multiperspectival domain, the area brings together principles and concepts from ontology , philosophy of science , physics , computer science , biology and engineering as well as geography , sociology , political science , psychotherapy within family systems therapy and economics among others.
Systems theory thus serves as a bridge for interdisciplinary dialogue between autonomous areas of study as well as within the area of systems science itself.