structure, subsystems, and boundaries, Minuchin and his colleagues . structural theory as periods when the couple is at risk of developing a Research to date suggests that structural therapy is effective with widely. The theory is based on the clinical experience of Minuchin and his . subsystems , boundaries, functions, relationships, external relationships and social. The purpose of the present study was to provide theoretical evidence to support .. credence to Minuchin's original hypothesis that family boundaries tend to be.
According to my plan for how all of this gets laid out there are two more key therapy schools to cover, these being the Family Systems and Humanist schools. Today's essay concerns the important contribution of the Family Systems school. Family Systems practitioners are the ecologists in my scheme for describing the various schools Philosophers, Engineers, Ecologists and Gnostics: Four Approaches to Psychotherapy. Accordingly, we should start by talking about what it means to be ecological.
To be ecological means to understand that creatures that appear to be independent beings aren't really independent at all, but rather are fundamentally interdependent on one another and on their shared environment for their continued survival.
The term originated within the field of Biology when the study of living systems such as oceans, forests and prairies revealed how inseparably interlinked many species are. A simple and common example illustrates. Flowers require bees to pollinate for them so that they can reproduce, while bees require flower pollen for food, or whatever it is that they do with pollen.
Boundaries and Dysfunctional Family Systems
While a bee and a flower can be said to exist independently of one another, they do not occur that way in nature, and neither might survive for long if indefinitely deprived of the other. Though individual species are distinct in form, they exist in context of a "whole cloth" community of species no part of which can be unraveled without unraveling the rest. Though individual clinicians have grasped the intrinsically social and ecological nature of identity since the early days of therapy e.
In this very social vision of therapy, groups of people operating as units are the proper client to which therapists must address their efforts. Individuals exist, but problems they experience are not individual but rather are social in nature.
Social problems can only be comprehended when viewed in their social context. Not surprisingly, the approach was pioneered by clinicians working with families and couples, and has been championed by the Social Work profession. Numerous authors contributed to the development of the Family Systems perspective, including influential clinicians such as Virginia Satir, Murray Bowen, Jay Haley and Salvador Minuchin.
In today's essay, I want to focus on one important theoretical contribution in particular, made I believe by Dr. Minuchinwhich is the idea of boundaries, because, in my humble opinion, if you understand about boundaries as they exist in social groups, you have understood the core vision of the Family Systems perspective, and have access to a tremendous conceptual tool useful for understanding how to help patients or yourself.
A boundary is a barrier; something that separates two things. Walls, fences and cell membranes are examples of physical boundaries. Psychological boundaries can be said to exist too, even though such boundaries have no physical reality.
Psychological boundaries are constructed of ideas, perceptions, beliefs and understandings that enable people to define not only their social group memberships, but also their own self-concepts and identities. Such boundaries are the basis by which people distinguish between "We" or "I" group members; insiders; part of "Us" and "Other" outsiders and examples of what is "not-self".
Each person can be said to have a psychological identity boundary around themselves by which they distinguish themselves from other people.
- Eating Disorders and Family Boundaries
Like other boundaries, this identity boundary both separates people and also defines how they are linked together. This is to say that the act of drawing the boundary itself provides the basis for saying that one person is separate from another psychologically, but does so only by drawing a distinction between those two people, which implies a relationship, never the less.
Self cannot exist without also "Not-self" existing, just as figure cannot exist without ground against which to contrast. Identity necessarily includes social relationships which are built into the self to varying degrees.
Boundaries are also drawn around committed couples, separating them from other people, and in the process making two individuals into an "Us". You could say that the commitment that two people share to be a couple is exactly the boundary they draw around themselves itself. Again, there is no physical reality to the boundary, but it is there nevertheless. Other sorts of social groups co-workers, board members, etc. Social groups of any size are seldom uniform things.
Rather, there are frequently sub-groups that form within larger groups that have special status and power within the group as a whole. The prototype for this sort of power hierarchy is the nuclear family e.
Parents function as a powerful and bounded subgroup within the larger group known as the family. Younger children function as a subgroup as well, but one with less power than parents have. Other examples of common power heirarchies include the workplace, where almost always, an executive sub-group has power over a worker sub-group, and government, where a similar sort of executive sub-group governs a sub-group of citizens. These sort of hierarchies, unevenly sharing power amongst subgroups within larger social groupings is a normal condition.
I said that in addition to distinguishing people from one another that boundaries also help to relate people as well. There is a literal sense in which this is true, having to do with how boundaries function to regulate communications between people. A boundary around parents, for example, is what enables parents to have a private life separate from their children. Parents share confidences and sexual intimacy with one another, secure and trusting in the knowledge that such confidences and intimacies will remain private and not shared with outsiders here including both "outside" outsiders such as true strangers, and "inside" outsiders e.
Despite there being a distinct class of information which stays within the boundary that parents draw around themselves, there is also an even larger class of information that parents are free to share with children. Parents do share their love with their children, for instance, talking to children freely about how they are valued, and providing guidance and discipline to help those children learn how to become responsible healthy adults at least that is ideally how it goes.
So boundaries function to keep some information private, while allowing other information to pass through unimpeded They are thus semi-permeable filters, rather than absolute brick walls. Note again that boundaries have no physical reality, but exist nevertheless, being implicit in how people relate to one another. The boundary between two parents is built of mutual commitment and trust that neither parent will choose to share private information or betray a confidence with non-members of their "group of two" e.
Having covered the preliminaries, we can start to get to the meat of why knowing about boundaries is important for effective therapy. There are ideal shapes that boundaries should have, and ideal filtering capabilities too.How to Be Certain About a Potential Partner - Esther Perel
Psychological problems are very likely to occur when boundaries get bent far out of their ideal shape or cease to filter information properly. Such an abstract set of statements as my last paragraph contains cries out for a concrete example, so here is one. Ideally, a family system consisting of parents and children will have a particular shape that works to help insure the mental and emotional health of its members.
Each parent needs to be able to trust the other parent and feel secure in their mutual bond. The parents need to identify themselves as parents and function together to coordinate their children's upbringing. Parents need to keep some information away from children such as information about their sexual relationship, or worrisome information such as the state of family finances, etc.
Children ideally need to be allowed an age-appropriate amount of autonomy, but not allowed to have so much autonomy that they feel neglected or not also reigned in when that is necessary. Most families decidedly don't manage to do all of this perfectly, but many do manage to pull off enough of these goals to make it work. Then there are the families where there are significantly non-ideal and problematic boundaries. The parents who fail to nurture their children, or who nurture them so much that the children feel smothered.
The parents who do not manage to keep their private business private; who sexualize their children before they are ready for that information, or who recruit children into adult confidant roles and confide their loneliness or anger towards the other spouse.
The parents who divorce ungracefully and continue to fight after their divorce is complete, using their children as messengers. There are many examples of how boundary problems within families can create significant pain for family participants. You already most likely know the term used to describe these families whose boundaries are seriously non-ideal.
However, when she became pubescent and started to rebel she was upset by family member walking into her room to watch their programs.
These family members included her parents, brother and sister.
There was never any explanation for these strange arrangements. What is significant is the fact that this patient became bulimic during the early part of her adolescence. Her sister and brother each developed their own types of psychological disorders. The last example is of a young woman who suffered from a case of anorexia that was serious enough for her to be hospitalized. Her extremely self centered parents were unforgiving of her for the hospitalization.
They were convinced that she was being ungrateful to them for having raised her. In family meetings the father, who did not want to be there, was outraged by the inconvenience and cost this was putting him through. It had always been the job of the daughter to care for her mother. It never occurred to the mother that this was totally inappropriate information for her daughter to hear about.
In fact, the mother discussed all the details of her unhappy marriage telling her daughter things that the mother should have been discussing with other adults.
Boundaries And Dysfunctional Family Systems
Details Common to the Three Young Women: In all three cases these patients had no sense of self. Specifically, this means that none of them had any idea of what career choices they wanted for themselves, what taste in music they preferred or what political issues were important to them.
Each one of the three felt totally responsible for the well being of their parents and would do nothing that they believed could cause hurt or disappointment. They would not express anger at either of their parents and all insisted that their parents did the best they could. In each case the young women had parents, particularly mothers, who made decisions for them. These mothers never recognized the fact that their daughters were now adults and needed to make their own decisions. Interestingly, each one of these patients denied that there was anything wrong with their mother making these decisions.
All three had great difficulty making decisions regardless of whether they wee dealing with major or minor issues. For example, selecting a movie to go to was a daunting task. Most often they would tell whomever they were with that "anything would be fine. However, this came only after a lot of hard therapeutic work. Finally, in all three cases no one in the respective families noticed how thin their daughters were and all three families expressed surprise at learning about the eating disorder.
It was only in case 3 that the parents expressed resentment at the diagnosis and at their daughter. There are additional factors behind eating disorders in addition to enmeshed family dynamics. The emphasis on physical beauty being defined as being thin in all of the media that influence young adolescents. Traditional role expectation that girls prepare themselves to be mothers who nurture others at the expense of themselves. Despite all of the social changes that have occurred the emphasis continues to be on girls being passive and exerting their influence through sexual beauty and through being aggressive and assertive.