System Theory Model in Psychotherapy

It is important to note that a system theory model is a form of a holistic approach that examines and assesses issues as a part or unit of a system without factoring in individuals in isolation. Therefore, the analysis primarily focuses on behaviors, interactions, and communications within and beyond a system of interest (Hartnett et al., 2016). In other words, the systems theory model of therapy can face major challenges, which reduce effectiveness when a critical member of a system, such as a family, is unwilling to participate. For example, in family system therapy, the approach requires the involvement and engagement of all family members since they can either be the victims or cause unhealthy family relations.

It can be considered mandatory to have each family member participate and cooperate with a therapist in order to ensure that the results or outcomes of the system theory model of therapy are positive and lead to improvements. However, in certain cases, a family member might not be willing to be involved in the therapeutic process, which renders the methodology useless if such a person plays a critical role in the creation of the problem.

In order to properly explain to a couple that the cause of a problem is the system or institution of marriage rather than the individuals themselves, it is important to educate them on the intricacies and vulnerabilities of the system, which are present in all families. In other words, outlining the problematic aspects of marriage, which are detached from individual characteristics and tied to the systematic properties, can be effective at ensuring that subsequent recommendations and directions will not be treated as a personal or internal form of judgment but rather as something external, with which the family units need to work.

Therefore, providing clear information and knowledge to the clients without attributing the systematic flaws to their personalities and individualities will enable a more detached attitude towards the problem at hand. Thus, further recommendations and propositions will not be treated and perceived as ideas based on individual weaknesses or characteristics. Each family member will be able to observe and comprehend the points of failure of their marriage with pure logic and without sentimentalities. Key issues will be seen as inherent elements of the marital system rather than a specific case of this particular couple.

I would utilize functional family therapy or FFT as an intervention for couples struggling with problems. The main approach is based on three phases, which include motivation and engagement, behavior change, and generalization (Hartnett et al., 2016). The first phase is critical since the system model requires cooperation from all units of a system, which means each family or couple member must be willing to cooperate and engage in the therapeutic process.

During this phase, I would provide incentives and encouragement for the collaboration by stating the key potential benefits and possible positive outcomes of participation. The second phase would be centered around identifying and working on behaviors of each member of a family system without attributing the recommendations to personal characteristics but rather to the specificities of a martial system itself. The third phase would be focused on generalization measures in order to ensure that couples adhere to the recommendations. I would be confident in utilizing these approaches if the couple showed a willingness to cooperate during the first phase. Otherwise, I would be reluctant to continue using the intervention.


Hartnett, D., Carr, A., Hamilton, E., & Sexton, T. L. (2016). Therapist implementation and parent experiences of the three phases of Functional Family Therapy. Journal of Family Therapy, 39(1), 80–102. Web.

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