The Problem with Individualism

Prior to the 1950’s, psychotherapy focused only on the individual who sought therapy, presupposing that the individual was a completely separate entity; separate from other people and from society. Observations began to reveal that there were more aspects to consider in the life of the individual than had previously been recognized. Pioneers in the field of family therapy began to recognize that the individual’’s problem was an expression of how the family functioned within a particular culture.

Families operate like a system; each person interacts in a way that upholds the organization of the family. Within each family, individual members have specific ways of relating to one another that are part of a pattern that permits the family system to continue; and these patterns are passed down from generation to generation. Even when the patterns of relating are hurtful or destructive family members will often continue responding in the same way in order to keep the “status quo” within the family. Family members get the message (whether spoken or unspoken) to not “rock the boat”.