Systemic psychology emphasizes the properties of the whole that result from the interaction of the different elements of the system.
Systemic psychology studies relationship and communication phenomena in groups, analyzing relationships and the components that emerge from them. This approach is based on individual people, who are interrelated with each other in different groups understood as systems. In this way, each group/collective where each person relates is a different system: family, work, partner…
This current starts from the context in which the different areas in which people move are taken into account, since how each individual relates to their environment determines their development and personal growth. This is how systemic psychology can be applied to couples, work teams, families, as well as to individual people.
Next, we will address how this approach arises and what it consists of; that is, the principles by which it is governed.
Origin of systemic psychology
Systemic psychology is a current based on Bertalanffy’s general systems theory, which began to develop in the second half of the 20th century. The philosopher highlights the concept of interaction, stating that a system implies an interdependence between the parties or the people involved in the relationship. It should be noted that the term “system” comes from the General Systems Theory.
The beginnings of systemic therapy are associated with the anthropologist Gregory Bateson and his team at the Palo Alto School. Bateson joined other researchers such as Jackson, Haley and Weakland to analyze the communication system of schizophrenic families.
From Bateson’s research, the theory of the double bind emerged, which put its grain of sand in the foundations of systems psychology. In this sense, a double bind is a communicative dilemma due to the contradiction between two or more messages, that is, messages that contradict each other are sent.
The phenomenon of human communication is one of the objects of analysis in systemic therapy. It should be noted that part of the foundations of this current we owe to Paul Watzlawick in his theory of human communication, in which he addresses issues related to the pragmatics of communication, taking into account the effects that communication has on behavior.
Principles of systems psychology
We name below basic and relevant aspects of systemic psychology:
The system as a whole
For this current, the system is considered a whole, since the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Systemic psychology emphasizes the properties of the whole that result from the interaction of the different elements of the system. Thus, for this approach, what is important is the relationship that arises from the interaction of people.
The different systems (family, friends, partner, co-workers…) are related in a contextual framework where the roles and behaviors of people in these contexts are determined by the tacit rules of that system and the interaction between its members. Systemic psychology analyzes and pays special attention to these roles and behaviors.
Focuses on relationships
Many of our problems stem from the way we relate to other people and to the world. Systemic psychology tries to rethink these problems, which seem to only concern us, through the relationships we establish with others. So, it analyzes why we behave like this in the contexts of our daily routine.
Systemic psychology starts from a circular and multicausal perspective. Therefore, linear markers cannot be established where there is only a single cause, but instead there are several determining causal factors: each action and reaction continually changes the nature of the context. For example, in a family the members react to the same event in different ways, modifying the final situation, which is the combination of all the different reactions that can occur.
In this sense, Paul Watzlawick was a pioneer in distinguishing this circular causality of events to explain the possible repetitive patterns of interactions between people. The circular vision of problems is marked by how the behavior of an individual influences the actions of others and by how the others influence the behavior of the former.
Communication is a key factor
As we have already mentioned, Watzlawick was one of the great exponents of systemic psychology when he introduced his theory of communication, which is considered a key factor in the therapeutic process. For the systemic therapist, communication is an important point to work on and analyze.
Each system has some rules that the systemic therapist must learn to intervene on them if they are not adequate. The way in which we communicate, according to this current, determines the maintenance or reduction of the problem to be dealt with.
Human communication Theory
Authors such as Watzlawick, Beavin and Jackon of the Palo Alto School have proposed “The theory of human communication” that feeds many of the models of systemic psychology. Some of his ideas are:
It is impossible not to communicate. All conduct communicates, including silence.
The mechanisms of the systems are self-regulating through feedbacks.
There are two levels of communication: the digital level and the analog level. If there is inconsistency between both levels, paradoxes appear.
Depending on the interpretation that we build on what we see and experience, we will rate the relationship with other people and vice versa.
There is a system of rules that the therapist or systemic psychologist must learn about: recognized rules, symmetrical rules, secret rules, and meta-rules.
Benefits of systemic psychology
Systemic psychology provides many benefits. It allows people to understand the ways in which their emotional life affects the way they interact with others.
It offers people tools to understand themselves. With greater self-understanding, they can develop healthier relationships with others and reach their potential in life.
Systems theory helps to understand the different perspectives that people have in different contexts. This awareness can help individuals identify when others are trying to exert power over them.
It teaches people to communicate with others more effectively, thus learning to better manage conflicts and solve problems more assertively.
Help people identify core beliefs.
It allows people to discover and enhance their own strengths and resources.
It can help clients develop greater empathy for others.
To conclude, systemic psychology offers another perspective on difficulties and problems, in which the relationship prevails over the individual as the focus of intervention. From different investigations, different ramifications and schools have emerged within systemic therapy, differing in small nuances. These are: the Interactional School of the MRI, the Structural and Strategic School, the Systemic School of Milan…
The Mind is Wonderful.-