15 terms

General Systems Theory

General systems theory
is more global in its conceptualizations of interaction
focuses primarly on communication
describes how the parts of a group interact
based on principles of general systems theory from family therapy
essential concepts
the interaction of members ("the parts") develops a pattern-the system
each members interaction serves a function and maintains the group as a system
systems are not isolated
systems are composed of smaller subsystems and larger suprasystems
all systems are isomorphic
they share commong characteristics
they reflect the social conditions of their suprasystems
leaders must confront cultural issues that invariably emerge in group interaction
as norms change and the group develops, it strives to regain homeostasis (change occurs, then accommadation)
maintain equilbrium throu interactions dictated by norms
negative feedback loops-limit behaviors to manage anxiety
positive feedback loops-encourage behaviors
homeostasis explains why groups avoid issues after periods of intense, emotional interactions (why they avoid implementing norms that increase intimacy)
all systems have various types of boundaries that:
differentiate individuals from one another and a group from other groups
define acceptable behaviors
define the groups purpose
define the amount and kind of contact allowed between members
define the information members can share-interpersonal communication boundaries
subsystems and subgroup have boundaries that deparate them from and exclude others
groups with ill defined boundaries lack commitment
groups with rigid boundaries become stale and boring
boundaries in effective groups are permeable (not diffuse, not impermeable)
by sharing opinions, emotions and perceptions members learn, influence and connect with one another
boundary functioning
development depends on how well members open and close the various types of boundaries-boundarying
ineffective boundarying-leads to problems for members subgroups and the group system.
external boundaries are too diffuse (open)
internal communication boundaries are impermeable (closed)
effective boundarying-members intentionally open and close their boundaries when beneficial
how easily boundaries allow information to flow
ineffective types of boundaries
may exist within the individual and/or group
impermeable boundaries-closed to feedback no sharing of self; disengaged; avoid emotional intimacy; perservate; have difficulties asking for and receiving support; appear insensitive/disinterested; "cognitive"
diffuse boundaries-highly permeable enmeshed relationships, tirelessly seek others approval; avoid confrontation; difficulty closing boundaries to protect self or identity; (bowens concept of fusion)
individual level-"others make me feel -----"
group level "lets maintain the status quo so everyone is comfortable and happy"
effective boundaries
clear boundaries-balance giving and receiving support and feedback; self-disclosure; connect with others without becoming enmeshed; open and close boundaries as needed
affect individual and group functioning and development
result in fluid communications
allow groups to negotiate and renegotiate boundaries
create necessay conditions for change
members act intentionally to open and close their boundaries and those of the group-autonomy
leaders help members make choices to do so
individuals have the freedeom to choose to be autonomous-how, when and to what extent
autonomous members can become involved without enmeshment(appropriate level of permeabilty)
see systems diagram figure 6.1 pg 91
system (group)
two or more groups of indviduals in the the larger group
individual subsystem
the group organizes the behavior of the members and operates as a hierarchy
interation at one level (system, subsystem) affects the functioning of the system at the next lowest level (when leaders intervene to affect the group, the group subsystems and individual subsystems will also be affected
the therapeutic process-implications for group counseling
leaders must assess boundary functioning and intervene as necessary to help members develop autonomy
change occurs only through modifying ineffective intra and interpersonal boundaries
leaders main role is that of boundary regulator
interventions vary and depend on whether or not boundaries need to be open and closed
excouraging the sharing of emotions specifically anger; utilizing feedback exchange to encourage effective communication and experimentation of new behaviors; focusing on here and now interactions; encouraging members to state needs rather than risks
strengths of general systems theory
greatly simplifies group interaction
defines the characteristics of a productive group environment
helps leaders conceptualize interventions
limitations of general systems theory
lacks sufficient depth to explain the dynamics of group interactions
does not provide a detailed description of the leaders role