If a therapist, consultant and coach were to teach you to ride a bike,
a therapist may ask you to approach the bike and ask how that feels;
a consultant might write instructions for you, and a coach might say,
ďIíll walk with you until you can do it on your own.Ē
What are Human Systems?
A human system refers to a group
of people that live or work together,
such as a team, a family, an organization or
Human systems accomplish what individuals, no matter
how resourceful, can accomplish on their own.
Systems coaching has been influenced by natural
science, chaos theory, physics, systems theory, psychoanalysis,
anthropology and evolutionary psychology. Our systems coaching
examines systemic influences and reciprocal effects rather than
linear influence or statistics.
Systems are subject to complex rules, which differ from linear
rules of cause and effect. Systems psychology can work at many
levels, and this page describes some practical aspects of systems
thinking in the context of social constructivism.
Chaos Theory & Therapy
. Executive Coaching
You describe and explain the world with words derived
from your relationships, not from reality. Your words are cultural patterns,
embedded within relationships. A constructivist view is that if you change
your words, you change your relationships. If you create and disseminate
new words within your culture, you affect everyday relationships. As with
Heisenberg's Principle, diagnosis can change that that was diagnosed.
Social constructivist ideas are integrated throughout our coaching.
As nobody is isolated from human systems, all coaching, counseling
and therapy have systemic consequences. The consequences of
individual change on a human system can be chaotic, unless those
consequences are explored and fine-tuned.
Human systems are complex. Attempts to simplify human systems
can lead to authoritarian systems (e.g. communist and totalitarian
societies, military and cults).
- few similar elements
- few links between elements
- limited potential for behavior
- stable, determined impact chains
- behavior is easily measured
- possible states can be predicted
- complete control is possible
- many different elements
- strong links & dependencies
- large repertoire of behavior
- manifold, variable impact chains
- behavior is difficult to measure
- possible states are unpredictable
- limited control is possible
Human systems cannot be completely analyzed, there
is too much happening. Statistical analysis data may be useful, but
in a system, every action can be both cause and effect. Circular
interactions, feedback loops and fuzzy logic better
define systemic behavior. Our systemic diagnosis provides systemic
models for predicting individual, couple, family and team behavior.
Although systemic rules guide the behavior of the
members of a system, some systemic rules are explicit and some cannot
be discussed by members. Examples of systemic rules include:
- Boundaries: Which boundaries are flexible
and which are rigid?
- Coalitions: Who can align with whom for what
- Communication: What are the communication
rules and meta-rules?
- Culture: What is the identity of the
system? (religion, status, ethnicity).
- Entanglement: Is there differentiation or
are members entangled each other.
- Hierarchy: Who is in control? What lines
of authority are used?
- History: What traditions and history are
still in active use?
- Life Cycle: What is the developmental
stage of the system?
- Maturity: What are the emotional ages
of the members?
- Metaphors: What underlying symbolic
interactions occur between members?
- Power: Who makes important decisions
for the system?
- Roles: Who rescues? Who distracts? Who
- Values: What are the overall systemic
values? (Clare Graves)
Systemic Psychology & Therapy
Although a problem may not be a person, nor a system,
a problem is a problem. Solutions include:
- Dissociation: Helps members
dissociate and discuss problems
- Change history: Help members evaluate
who they are and how they got here
- Mapping: Help members explore benefits
- Metaphors: Help members reframe
their situations and solutions
- Outcomes: Research both individual and
- Planning: Help members visualize
steps to success
As all members are affected by changes to a system, individual
change can be embedded in systemic coaching. Some presuppositions
seem to be:
- Systems exist in a cultural context
- Systems go through a systemic life cycle
- Systems organize themselves to maintain stability
- Experiences in a system shape the system's development
- Changes in part of a system affect all
people in that system
- Problems can be better understood within the context
of a system
- Systems can get stuck in repetitive patterns
that restrict their choices
- Conflicts between two people often involve a third
- Symptoms are often functional and help
a system maintain equilibrium
You can try to be a neutral observer (good luck!) or you can
join the system as a guest.
- Decide on which sub-system you want
- Avoid taking sides - strive to be perceived as
fair and objective
- Reframe problems so that members do not
focus on one member
- Implement interventions through demonstration
- Consider individual behavior while observing
- Keep things moving and keep members (especially
Stages of Systemic Change
- Contact: Be accessible,
knowledgeable, confident and kind
- Enroll: Build connections with system
members without favoritism or bias
- Assess: Assess coalitions,
hierarchies, communication behavior
and the entanglements of each member
- Reorient: Present your interpretation of
what is going on within the system
- Feedback: Listen to and incorporate
the feedback from system members
- Realign: Change the way system members
interact with each other
Types of Systemic Coaching & Systemic Therapy
- Communication/Humanistic (Satir &
Whitaker): Emphasizes relationships within systems. Observe
communication styles and provide experiential interventions.
- Intergenerational (Bowen): Emphasizes
multi-generational family maps. Observers manage systemic tension
by avoiding participation in dysfunctional family rituals.
- Milan Model (Selvini-Palazolli):
Perceptive and paradoxical teamwork - two team members interview
while another team member covertly observes from a hidden location.
- Multicultural approaches: Examines the
societal influences of oppression and ethnic identity.
- Narrative Therapy (White & Epston):
Examines a systemís experience and personal meaning through
the use of language and metaphor.
- Psychoanalytic (Ackerman & Framo):
Examines how influences from the past shape the present.
- Soulwork (Carruthers): Describes healthy development
and appropriate behavior in a hierarchy of relationships. This offers rapid solutions for
emotional and relationship problems.
- Strategic (Haley & Madanes): Examines
inter-relational and communication styles to help families define
problems, and then help them solve those problem.
- Structural (Minuchin): Views a system as
an organism undergoing transformation. Explores the underlying
structure of systems.
- Systemic Family Therapy (Hellinger): Shows how
individual lives are determined by systems; and how conscience reacts
to changes in relationship bonds and
violations of family rules.
Online Coaching, Counseling & Soulwork Therapy
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