FAMILY SYSTEMS APPROACHES - Handbook of couples therapy

Divorce can be treated as part of a larger family system problem. It is often unproductive to work on a marital relationship in individual therapy without the actual presence and contributions of both partners. Similarly, in working with divorcing couples, it is often most advantageous to work through and understand the marital autopsy history as well as the divorce decision and postdivorce adjustments involving the welfare of children with both individuals present. Since each member of the family interacts within a system of operation, during divorce therapy the children or extended family members may also be brought into treatment as appropriate. This contextual system helps the therapist to make more informed, realistic assessments and to better ensure the goal of positive lasting change within the individual family members and within any future blended family. Divorce has the power to alter radically the individual and familial relationships of people within a system and thus to change the nature of the system itself. This is readily apparent in continually evolving new family forms and kinship structures . Conversely, if ex-spouses continue to repeat old games and dyadic stratagems and never divorce emotionally, then the family system itself may not be altered significantly, except to replay versions of the old dysfunctional patterns. Triangulating and parenting the children offers many opportunities for maintenance of the old family system.
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