Systems Theory in Counseling

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  • An application of general systems theory that proposes that persons should be examined and counseled within their social context. Systems theory in counseling proposes that personal conflict arises between or among persons. Therefore, the effective way to treat an individual is to view his or her problems as based on interrelationships with others. With couples, within families, or in groups, the therapist and the client collaborate to find patterns of behavior and communication between the client and significant others and to assess the patterns of words, thoughts, and actions that the client has (or could have) in relation to others. The system, rather than just the individual, usually requires work to restore healthy functioning.

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