From families to orchestras, co-workers to sports teams – systemic therapy focuses on relationships between a group of people, rather than solely on an individual’s thoughts and feelings.
It’s often used as an umbrella term to cover family therapy or couples therapy. But it’s much broader than this. It can help any group or system where people work together or have a relationship.
Stefan Walters, a systemic therapist, says: “Systemic therapy gives people a safe space to explore the system they are in - whether personal or professional.
“It helps with the relationships and connections between people within the system.”
Who is systemic therapy for?
The system in question can be a family, a pair or group of friends, work colleagues, or another set of people whose relationship is key to their success – such as a music group or sports team.
“It’s for any group of people where their system has become dysfunctional,” Stefan says.
“There’s often a family dynamic in these groups, even though they’re not families.”
He adds: “If part of the system is broken, then the whole system is broken.
“It may feel like something jars. It’s not working smoothly. That’s when the group may seek professional help.”
How does systemic therapy work?
Systemic therapy focuses on the interactions and relationships between the group to help them address any problems and to move on. It gives all the members of the group the chance to explore their feelings and say what they think in a safe, non-judgmental environment.
Therapy seeks to identify deeply entrenched patterns within an individual's relationships and also with group members. The process helps to uncover the ways in which members communicate and behave within a system, based on beliefs about their respective roles.
The therapist will help them to understand their differences and what may be causing them problems. They work with every member of the group, so that no one feels isolated or like other members of the group are ganging up on them.
Stefan adds: “It’s a safe and secure space to explore the key issues affecting the group - whether it's issues brought up from the past or things from the present.
“I help them to make sense of it – the present and the past. That may be about attachments to each other, resentment or betrayals.
He adds: “It’s all about how things get played out in the system within the group.”
How can systemic therapy help?
Systemic therapy can help to identify and address the issues that were causing the problems within the group.
It can help people within the system empathise and sympathise with each other.
Overall, systemic therapy can help to improve communication, build stronger relationships and enable the group to move on from their problems.
Says Stefan: “It can help to repair wounds. It’s a healing process.”
What is counselling?
Find out how counselling works, what therapists do and what happens in a therapy session. We also explain some of the key terms and concepts you may hear.
What therapy can help with
An A-Z list of issues and concerns which may be helped by talking to a counsellor.
How to get therapy
Where, when and how you can get access to counselling and psychotherapy.