Handbook of Family Therapy: The Science and Practice of Working with Families and Couples

By Thomas L. Sexton; Gerald R. Weeks et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2

The Ecosystemic “Lens” to Understanding Family Functioning

MICHAEL S.ROBBINS, PhD

CARLA C.MAYORGA, BA

JOSÉ SZAPOCZNIK, PhD
University of Miami School of Medicine


INTRODUCTION

Context has always played a critical role in couple and family theory. Pioneers of CFT championed a view that expanded the focus from an individual level to the larger contexts that contain individuals-with, of course, a primary emphasis on the family. Even the use of the term systems, a central theoretical base of virtually every couple and family approach, is rich with an understanding of context and contextual influence. Historically, context in CFT has not been solely limited to the nuclear family. For example, early approaches often considered the role of multiple generations within a family, other extended family members, as well as other important systems in the individuals' and families' social ecology in the evolution, maintenance, and treatment of a variety of problems (Boszormenyi-Nagy, 1987; Bowen, 1976; Framo, 1976; McGoldrick & Gerson, 1985; Speck & Attneave, 1973; Whitaker, 1975). Although this broader “ecological” focus has persisted over time, only recently has the “lens” been sharpened to include a more intensive focus on developing and testing integrated interventions that utilize social contextual frameworks for understanding and treating symptoms. Using this “ecosystemic lens, ” a base of empirically supported intervention strategies has begun to emerge in CFT.

The focus of this chapter is to capture the essence of the ecosystemic movement in CFT. In doing so, we start with a brief description of factors that have influenced the rise in im-

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