Systemic therapy is one of the most revolutionary and influential psychotherapy models in the last decades. It has opened up new possibilities and very effective interventions for couple and family therapy, and it has brought a completely new way of approaching any individual, relational or organizational change process.
The systemic model sees individuals in the context of their significant relationships and the characteristics of the social groups and culture that they live in. Each relational system (couple, family, business, team, etc.) has a specific history, structure, emotional climate, implicit rules, values, patterns of behavior, and it has the ability to evolve and adapt to different changes and crisis that take place over time. Problems or difficulties in people or relationships are not caused intentionally or seen as the product of the individuals´ pathology- the systemic hypothesis is that the system may be temporally “stuck” and unable to generate new relational patterns.
The goal of the systemic therapist is to build a collaborative relationship to facilitate change, exploring with the client(s) how the “vicious cycles” (the well-meaning but ineffective solution attempts) are generated, and encouraging new meanings and relationship patterns. This will then bring more satisfaction and growth potential for the system and each of its members.
Based on systemic therapy and social constructionism, narrative therapy is an innovative and creative model that gives priority to the knowledge and experience of the people who consult- rather than the “expert knowledge” of the professionals. It is based on the premise that our way of giving meaning to reality, and even our identity, is constructed on the interaction with others.
Narrative therapy helps separate people from their problems, placing the problems outside and exploring how they operate, how they began and are maintained, and also, which are the strengths, skills or personal, relational or social resources that contribute to keep those problems away from people´s lives. Through this joint inquiry, a new space is opened where new alternative stories can come up, and reflection on how the dominant stories have shaped people´s lives is made possible. Then, possibilities for new ways of living, relationships and perspectives on oneself and others are made possible, based on people´s preferences or values, and encouraging their position as protagonists of their own lives.
From the moment we are born as male or female, we are given in childhood, in our family of origin and social context, a series of messages and expectations on how we are or how we are supposed to be. These crucial learnings have a powerful influence on our self-image and self-worth, and on our behaviors, ways of thinking, feeling, and relating to others.
Both women and men are confronted in our adult life –in our couple or family relationships-with difficulties resulting from expectations that we have embraced when growing up: they often impose certain restraints (such as on women´s self-assertion or men´s emotional self-disclosure), or just do not fit with our personal experience. The gender perspective is key to give visibility and raise awareness on the powerful influence of these family, cultural and social expectations. It provides the opportunity to challenge and broaden them, thus bringing forth new opportunities for change in any process of personal growth.