"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one." Jane Howard.
Family systems are our first world. We learn everything about ourselves, about being male, female, our values and beliefs within the context of this first world. Ideally, we need a family system that has an executive system, i.e. parent(s) that are benevolent and loving. Who offer clear and consistent boundaries and communication. Where roles and rules in the family are explicit. Members are flexible to the ever changing needs of developmental stages or unexpected events. A safe and secure system that allows for the children, siblings and partners to be accessible, responsive and engaged with each other.
Often times one family member can be the symptom bearer in the family. The one that appears to have the problem, i.e. a dad that struggles with over-working, a daughter that struggles with an eating disorder, a mom that numbs out every evening with prescription drugs, a brother that acts out at school and gets into physical altercations. These may be some reasons that lead a family into therapy. This is what therapists call the presenting problem. It is what triggers the alarm system in the family to proclaim, "Houston-we have a problem!"
However, the way the family perceives and responds to these issues is as much as the problem, as it is the solution. I look at the pattern as the problem. The problem is not the person struggling with the symptom, but more over the pattern that the family is stuck in. A common relational pattern could be, a family system that uses withdrawal and avoidance as a way to deal with the issue, or maybe a family system that uses anger and reactivity as a way to control the issue. The beauty of family therapy, is that everyone in the family system will get an opportunity for growth and healing.