Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

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

System in Family Systems Theory

  • William P. RussellEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_311

Name of Concept



Prior to the advent of couple and family therapy, the fields of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy convened sessions with an individual client and characterized therapy in terms of producing change in the individual. Social work prefigured the family therapy approach by focusing social diagnosis on the person-in-environment and establishing principles for intervention with the individual and the social context (Richmond 1917) but did not provide a theory to explain problem formation and problem resolution within a social context. Similarly, by the mid-twentieth century, other forbearers of family therapy – including marriage counselors, child guidance professionals, and some psychiatrists – were intervening with multiple family members (Nichols and Davis 2017) but did not have a theory of the family system to guide intervention.

In the 1950s, early family therapy theorists began to utilize systems theory, developed in the fields of engineering and...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Family Institute at Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Eli Karam
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA