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Aspects of Experiential and Cognitive-Behavioral Family Therapy Applied - Family Systems Theory

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Aspects of Experiential and Cognitive-Behavioral Family Therapy Applied

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Family Systems Theory

Monster University

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Aspects of Experiential and Cognitive-Behavioral Family Therapy Applied

Family therapy has traversed a varied and undulating path, while being influence by a

multitude of psychological models. Ally& Bacon (1998a) describe various aspects of

psychodynamic and humanistic theory, other individual psychology approaches, marriage

counseling, child guidance, social psychology, group dynamics, and more in-depth foci on

family structures and processes. Two categories of therapies will receive focus in this paper:

Experiential Family Therapy and Cognitive-Behavioral therapies, both of which draw heavily

from theories which focus primarily on the individual.

Virginia Satir's approach to Experiential Family Therapy will be examined. The goal will

to present a summary of some of the highlights, rather than an exhaustive examination. Certain

aspects of general Cognitive and Behavioral psychology will be noted. One main objective will

be to draw from these therapies while presenting a brief approach to family counseling unique to

this paper. The main concepts of this approach will be applied to a case study of a family unit.

There will admittedly be a limited treatment of the more complex systemic family therapies. This

will hopefully provide an interesting overview of a creative synthesis of ideas, and a general

application of individual and family therapeutic strategies.

Satir's Experiential/Humanistic Overview

Virginia Satir was a pioneer in the field of experiential family therapy. Satir's work has

received both commendation for its compassion and criticism for its lack of scientific

underpinning (Family Therapy, 2006). Her beliefs were considered to be counter to the then

prevalent emphasis on scientific research and theory development in family therapy circles

(Family Therapy, 1998). Nichols and Schwartz (2004) viewed the original contributions of Satir

and other experiential family therapists to be somewhat a product of a bygone era, yielding to

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more in-depth family systems theories. It was acknowledged that experiential approaches have

been incorporated in the later models of Greenberg and Johnson, and of Schwartz.

Satir did, however, believe that one family member's behavior affected other family

members, which was evidenced by symptom sharing (Linda M. Woolf, n.d.). This had lead to the

idea that families must be treated as units, with therapy focusing on the family as an

interdependent whole. Positing the view that families are more than groups of individuals, but a

whole that was more than the sum of its parts, indicates a relationship to Gestalt psychology and

constructivism. While individuals do need specific counseling at times, therapists dealing with

families must not lose sight of the forest because of looking at the trees. Satir's approach does, to

some degree, address family issues from a systems standpoint.

Satir valued compassion and feelings as part of the therapy encounter, while stressing the

importance of caring and acceptance in the development of healthy relationships (Virginia Satir,

1998). Satir believed in the encompassing effects of communication on all human interaction

(Mathews, 1994). Communication was viewed as involving what is said, how it

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