Working with families has always been part of social work. Family therapy, however, is being used increasingly in almost all the helping professions. This approach looks at problems within the system of relationships in which they occur, and aims to promote change by intervening in the broader system rather than in the individual alone. Social work, psychiatry, psychology, and nursing have all embraced the approach to a greater or lesser extent. This in turn has often resulted in professionals from the same or different disciplines working together in ad hoc support groups or formalized teams. Although each professional contributes knowledge and skills from his or her own discipline the result is more than multi-disciplinary. The approach that is created and shared is often trans-disciplinary since the systemic constructs and working methods do not belong to any of the traditional helping professions and are therefore available to all.
Families of various sizes, configurations, creeds, and cultures are perhaps the most commonly occurring relationship systems with which professions work, and as such they are the focus of this book. However, a systemic approach can be useful when working with and between other systems, such as schools, residential establishments, hospitals, professional networks, and work settings.