Author: Michael D. Zentman Ph.D.
Systemic family therapy, the most prevalent model of family treatment today, views the individual as an integral component of a unit of organization —the family. Systems theory postulates that a person cannot be viewed, nor
treated, out of the context in which that person is embedded. This context, the family, may be the nuclear family (one generation) or the extended family (three or more generations). Regardless of whether the focus is the nuclear or extended family, the pathology experienced by an individual is viewed as a manifestation of some level of dysfunction in the family system. The identified patient (IP), the individual that the family is presenting for treatment, is expressing the family’s conflict through the metaphor of a symptom. The IP may be viewed as the weak link in the system, the family member who is most vulnerable to stress and, therefore, most likely to develop the symptom.