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Circular causality in family therapy

In family therapy, it is important not to focus only on a family's internal dynamics, with no awareness or incorporation of systemic forces in a larger sense -- it is not only the family system that is important, but the cultural/societal systems around that family, that influence each individual within the family system. Power is not necessarily equally distributed within any given family, particular within cultural settings that privilege one group over another (and don't all cultures do this, in various ways?).

As a couple/family therapist, how could you use the idea of circular causality, and also include an awareness of larger forces or power differentials that may be affecting that couple/family? Please have a valid reference as well. Thanks.

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In circular causality, the cause is the result and the result is the cause; therefore, this cycle repeats periodically. As a therapist, it is necessary to determine what type of actions or behaviors from what family members cause the behaviors of the other family members, in other words, how the cycle begins. In each cycle, there is one person who has more power. In some relationships, there is a pursuer (one who pushes for closeness) and the distancer (one who feels smothered by the pursuer and pulls away even more) (1).

Another case scenario would be the over-compensator (one who is very responsible and plans for everything) and the under-compensator (one who is spontaneous and less responsible). In this case, the over-compensator can sometimes see the ...

Solution Summary

Discusses internal family dynamics in family therapy as they compare to systemic forces and includes references.