The potential contribution of family dynamics to the problems of individual family members and to collective family misery has long interested social workers and members of allied counselling professions. From its earliest days family and marital therapy has formed a substantial part of social work. This effort has been informed and fashioned by a variety and often competing range of theories occupying the whole spectrum of psychodynamic and behavioural theories. This has spawned fragmented and sometimes highly idiosyncratic therapies which owe more to personal preferences and prejudices rather than to the perspectives which inform them.
The last decade, however, has witnessed the growth of efforts to establish a coherent theory matched by a therapeutic practice which relies upon theoretical concepts rather than individual supposition. This new school has moved away from theories that concentrate attention upon the individual to ideas that view personal difficulties in terms of family interaction. For example, it promotes an understanding of difficult child behaviour not simply from the standpoint of the child, or the mother, or the father, or the sibling(s), but in terms of the patterns and dynamics of family functioning. That is, it looks at problems in terms of the family or collective in which the individual performs and relates. This structured approach has led to the development of a more rational form of family therapy, and to efforts to understand the therapeutic procedures and process. This has resulted in professions from different disciplines uniting in a common effort.