This type of addiction treatment works with individuals as part of a family system to resolve issues using treatment methods that are short-term, focused on finding a solution to the problem, and require active interaction between the individual in treatment and the family system. It is a form of psychotherapy that helps patients resolve their problems in the context of their family units, where many issues are likely to begin. Each family member works together with the others to gain a better understanding of their group dynamic and how their individual actions affect each other and the family as a whole. An important premise of family systems therapy is that whatever happens to one member of the family happens to everyone in the family.
During therapy, the family works individually, as well as together to resolve a problem that directly affects one or more family members, and each member can express their thoughts and feelings about how they are affected. The family works together to help the individual in distress and to help relieve the strain on the whole family. They explore their individual roles within the family, learn how to switch roles if necessary, and they learn how to support each other in order to restore family relationships and rebuild a healthy family system.
Family systems therapy has been used to treat many mental and behavioral health problems. It has been shown to be effective with families, couples, and individuals in treating schizophrenia, substance abuse, bipolar disorder, anxiety, personality issues, and eating disorders.
Murray Bowen, an American psychiatrist, began developing his family systems theory in the mid ‘50s while working at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Based on his knowledge of systems theory and family patterns, he believed that the personalities, emotions, and behaviors of individuals are a result of their birth order, their role within their family, and the coping mechanisms they have developed over time to deal with emotional family issues. In order to understand the family system, the family must be viewed as a whole, and what defines a family is more than just the people who make it up, but also the way they interact with each other to create a unique family dynamic.