Systemic approach

“Just when you think you know something for sure, you have to look for a different perspective”

Dead poets club

The systemic therapy considers the individual involved in its respective frame of reference, the whole family has a central role. The family system includes not only the current members, but also members from previous generations. The unconscious morality of the family system, the system of rules, family secrets, loyalties and the attachment to individual members, often determine one’s own actions, but also create symptoms that sometimes seem to have nothing to do with one’s own current way of life. At the forefront of the systemic approach is the detection of the reciprocal effects of the individual members of the system.

Case study

Sonja (25) came to me because of recurrent cystitis and relationship problems. She had just split up with her boyfriend and said that their relationships never last very long and always fail. In my therapeutic approach, I usually work with multiple methods, depending on the demand and personality of the client.

In the first hour, I created, together with Sonja, a family genogram and asked for details. Sonja told me that she does not know her father because her mother was raped by three men at a party. The mother never pressed charges because of shame and did not try to find out who the perpetrators were. Something bothered me from the beginning of this story, but I couldn’t really classify it yet.

In the next sessions, I worked with Sonja, inquiring how it was for her, on the one hand not to know her father, and on the other hand, to have spent a large amount of time of her life with the knowledge that her father was a rapist. I also asked her if she related her recurrent cystitis, as well as her difficult relationship with men to that issue. She immediately saw a relation and reported that she had a deep mistrust of men, but also distrusted her mother because her mother evasively responded whenever Sonja addressed the topic of the rape with her. I shared with her my doubts on the subject and also told her that right from the beginning, I felt that there was something wrong with the story.

It was also clear that she had many contradictory feelings about her father. On the one hand, she worried the 50% of the genes received from her father, came from a violent offender, on the other hand, she also felt the need to meet him anyway.

After visiting my practice for about half a year, I suggested that she attend a family constellation on this subject of unexplained paternity and “alleged” rape.

A short time later, she attended a family constellation with a colleague in a group during which a completely new revelation was discovered: the “Father” was a complete gentleman to her “mother” and also remain totally devoted and loving to the “daughter”.

My client was very shaken and drove shortly after the constellation to her mother and held her feet to the fire. In tears, she asks her mother to finally tell her the truth. The mother was finally ready and told her that the rape never occurred and that she had instead had a relationship with her boss at the time. Her boss was much older than her and was married with children of his own. When he knew about the pregnancy, he said that he could not leave his family, but would be willing to support the mother and daughter and continue to maintain a relationship with them. When Sonja was born, he came to the hospital with flowers and tried to continue to look after his daughter and her mother. Sonja’s mother rejected any further attention. She wanted to end the relationship and break off the contact. Throughout the years, Sonja’s mother kept the real father and the truth from her daughter and from all around her.

The subsequent sessions with Sonja were about arranging and processing the new discoveries. Sonja was very upset, but at the same time, very relieved and very happy. Something within her now came to rest. She now knew that she had older half-siblings who she might like to visit. She even considered searching for her father, but she was not yet ready.

In the next few months, Sonja went through an amazing development. She looked much more mature and in good contact with herself. Her bladder infections completely disappeared. When she met a young man, who lived further away in the country, she decided to move in with him. There, we ended our sessions. About half a year later, she visited me again, doing much better and her current relationship is now completely different from any of her previous disasters.

Recommended books:

“Even if it costs me my life” Stephan Hausner

“You are one of us” Marianne Franke Gricksch

“Attachment: Attachment and Loss” John Bowlby

“Separation: Anxiety and Anger” John Bowlby

“Loss: Sadness and Depression” John Bowlby

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