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Systems Theory

Systems theory is a way of thinking about how the world is organized. It is a theoretical move away from a focus on “stuff”—material, matter, substance, content—and a move toward a focus on relationship—process, organization, form, pattern, and context. Since the early 1900s, many fields and disciplines, such as physics, biology, architecture, and family therapy, have adopted a systemic orientation, understanding phenomena in terms of relationship rather than “things.” This entry offers a definition and description of systems theory and the role it plays in family therapists’ thinking. It then moves to a discussion of the relationship between change and systemic practice. The purpose of this entry is to give the reader an idea of what a systemically oriented therapy might look like.

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