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Bowenian Systems Theory

examine past familial patterns of dealing with anxiety - understand them so as not to repeat them. High anxiety = illness. Must distinguish/differentiate oneself from one's own thoughts & from others

Founder of Bowenian Systems Theory

Murray Bowen

Role of Counsellor for Bowenian S. Theory

coach and teach the client to be more cognitive in their dealings with others - may construct a multigenerational genogram

Goals of Bowenian Systems Theory

clients will understand and modify the coping strategies and patterns of coping with stress that have been passed on from generation to generation. Will display non-anxious presence in their daily lives. Will be able to separate their thoughts from their feelings and themselves from others.

Systems Theory

theory for how the interaction of parts (people) influences the operation of the system as a whole (family).
-Causality is interpersonal
-psychosocial systems are best understood as repeated patterns of interpersonal interaction
-symptomatic behaviors must be understood from an interactional viewpoint

Ludwig von Bertalanffy (SYSTEMS)

originated general systems theory - he was a biologist - any living organism is composed of interacting components mutually affecting one another.

Circular Causality (used in systems theories)

one of the main concepts of systems theory - the idea that events are related through a series of interacting feedback loops.


distinguishing one's thoughts from one's emotions and oneself from others.

Structural Family Counseling (description) (SYSTEMS)

a form of counseling which states every family has a structure which influences people for better or for worse. If there is a hierarchical structure people relate well to each other. No structure = developmental/situational events that increase family stress, rigidity and chaos leads to coalitions & cross-generational alliances.

Structural Family Counselling Role of Counsellor

Counselor acts as observer and expert in making interventions to modify and change underlying structure of family - changing interactional patterns in subsystems of the family (such as in the marital dyad) work at establishing clear boundaries among family members.

Salvadore Minuchin (SYSTEMS)

founder of structural family counseling.


the informal way in which a family organizes itself and interacts.

Reframing (used in structural family counseling)

a technique that involves helping the family see its problem from a different and more positive perspective.

restructuring (used in structural family counseling)

changing the structure of a family by altering existing hierarchies or interaction patterns so that problems are not maintained.

paradox (used in structural family counseling)

a confusing message, such as "don't change" meant to frustrate and motivate an individual or group to seek alternative actions.

Strategic (Brief) Counselling (SYSTEMS)

Counseling based on the belief that when dysfunctional symptoms occur they are an attempt to help people adapt. Sees problems as occurring within a developmental framework of the family life cycle.
(families try new functional behaviors - Like behaviorism for families!)
Focus on several dimensions of family life
- family rules
-family homeostasis
-quid pro quo
-circular causality

Relabeling (used in strategic (brief) couseling)

a technique of giving a new perspective to a behavior - so instead of labeling something as "bad", labeling it "challenging".

Paul Watzlawich, Jay Haley, Cloe Madanes, and the Milan Group

Founders of Strategic BRIEF Counseling

Solution-focused counseling (BRIEF)

this theory believes that a small change in one's behavior is often all that is necessary to lead to more profound changes in a problem context. Reality is a reflection of obseravation and experience. People really want to change and change is inevitable.

Steve deShazer, Bill O'Hanlon and Milton Erickson

Founders of Solutions-Focused counseling (BRIEF)

the miracle question (Solution-focused counseling)

THE question that focuses on the hypothetical situation where a problem has disappeared. "What would be different if..."

Skeleton Keys (Solution-focused counseling)

procedures that have worked before and that have universal applications in regard to UNLOCKING a variety of problems.

Narrative Counseling (BRIEF)

the theory where people are seen as internalizing and judging themselves through creating stories of their lives, many of which highlight negative qualities.

Michael White and David Epston

Founders of Narrative Counseling (1990!)


the technique of Narrative Counseling whereby refining ones' life and relationships through a new narrative = change becomes possible


a perception of an event or situation as an INTOLERABLE DIFFICULTY that exceeds the person's resources and coping mechanisms.

Crisis Counseling (Crisis Approach)

the approach dealing with individuals who may feel overwhelmed because of the value the person, possession or position had in his life, or because of the sudden/traumatic way the loss occurred.

Erich Lindemann and Gerald Caplan

Founders of Crisis Counseling.

Strengths and contributions of Structural Family Couseling

good because it emphasizes symptom removal & reorganization of family structure in a pragmatic way. Versatile and effective across cultures

Limitations of Structural Family Counseling

not good because not complex enough, may be sexist, difficult to distinguish from strategic counslg = confusing, counselor in charge = families not empowered

Strengths and contributions of Strategic (Brief) Counseling

good because limited number of sessions (hence the misnomer of "brief"), innovative/creative techniques, change perceptions = new behaviors, view dysfunctional symptoms as attempts to help people adapt.

Limitations of Strategic (Brief) Counseling

bad that it overlaps with other system theories & brief therapy = confusing. Emphasis on expertise of counselor could = less client independence.

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