Our Perspective

Therapists at South Shore Family Health Collaborative either have or are pursuing licenses in marriage and family therapy.

What is a marriage and family therapist, and how might that affect your experience at South Shore Family?

While each therapist has his/her own unique flavor, we all share similar philosophical perspectives as to how therapy works, including these ten basic tenets:

1. We cannot remove an individual from his/her own context; each individual and relationship exists in a system, and the system is different from the sum of its parts. Each part of a system is connected and are in relationship with each other.

2. Though there are many systems in which we exist–school, gender, race–our initial system is our family of origin. We learn about rules and boundaries largely from the way that our family communicates, includes/excludes insiders and outsiders, and guides behavior through consequences and rewards.

3. There are many ways to get to the same solution. Our job is to help find a way that works best for you.

4. We are experts on relationships. Relationships are recursive, meaning that each person affects and is affected by the other. In most cases (one-sided domestic/sexual abuse being the exception), blaming comments are irrelevant, because both participants in a relationship play a role in conflict.

5. Recursion in relationships creates communication patterns, and it is these patterns (rather than the content of conversation or a specific person) that our therapists help with.

6. Conflict in couples and families often exists because of the tension between a system wanting to stay the same (homeostasis) and inherently evolving into something new (morphogenesis), particularly as members age, are born, marry into, die, etc.

7. Communication occurs through verbal and non-verbal channels. Most couples and families get stuck in the non-verbal. Non-verbal communication often has no specific meaning to it, but we create meaning to non-verbals (a furrowed brow, a raising of the voice) in our attempt to create context and more understanding. Often, our interpretation of non-verbals misconstrues what our partner/family member is actually trying to say. Therapy, then, is a present, in-the-moment exercise, a retraining of our brains identifying reality.

8. At the same time, perception is reality, and our couples and families enter therapy with multiple perspectives. There are seldom right/wrong perspectives (again, domestic, sexual, and substance abuse being exceptions). Therapy is a place of understanding and accepting for multiple perspectives.

9. Interactions have beginning and endings (punctuation), although different people have different understandings of what those moments are. Punctuation is generally arbitrary, but our therapists want to help you create shared beginnings and endings to interactions.

10. Patterns occur at multiple levels simultaneously. When we discuss sex and sexuality with you, your discourse around sex becomes a metaphor for the way that you’re dealing with other conflict in your relationship; we call this exploration a parallel process.

If you’re interested in reading more about some of the basic tenets of our perspective, check out Family Therapy: A Systemic Integration, by Dorothy and Ralph Becvar.

Or give us a call at 617-750-0183 and set up an appointment with one of our therapists. We apply these principles to a number of situations–an individual struggling with anxiety or depression, a couple stuck in negativity, or a family trying to figure out what its next chapter looks like.