Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

2019 Edition
| Editors: Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Ecosystem in Family Systems Theory

  • Christie EpplerEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_260

Name of Concept

Ecosystem in Family Systems Theory


Context/contextual; Human ecology; Systems/systemic


In family systems therapy, ecosystems are broadly defined as interconnected contextual* variables and patterns of functioning. Ecosystems can be a place, culture, or norm that influences clients (e.g., social locations, boundaries, rules, etc.). Considering the ecosystem in therapy changes the perspective from treating individuals and their symptoms to conceptualizing clients and their presenting problems as the interactions of relationships, environments, and larger systems* in symbiotic processes.

Theoretical Context for Concept

Although Eastern spiritualities, African traditions, and Indigenous cultures have long considered interconnections and collectivist ways of relating, it was not until the 1950s that Western mental health professionals used an ecosystemic approach to inform family treatment. Multiple ecological perspectives were delineated, an antithesis...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Seattle UniversitySeattleUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • David Kearns
    • 1
  • Bahareh Sahebi
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Family MedicineUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA
  2. 2.The Family Institute at Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA