Every family that comes in is usually stuck in some painful system that typically occupies more and more energy of the household. Systems consist of roles and rules, often unspoken, that guide the actions of the family. In a stuck system, members of the family assumes at least one role, such as identified patient, mascot, enabler, drill sergeant, super-responsible one, hero, villain, etc. Each role is trying to solve a deeper issue within the system by managing the surface actions of self and other. This is like trying to steer a ship by turning your body one way or another on the deck and trying to get the other passengers to do the same. Takes a lot of time and energy, and not particularly effective in the long run.
Families, similar to couples, are trying to solve deeper issues by attending to the current actions that are problematic (acting out, refusal to participate in family activities, disruption of the stated and unstated rules, etc.). This can be a very painful dynamic for everyone involved. The surface actions that bring families into my office need to be tended to for sure, and they will, however, the core issues that are causing the symptoms that are showing up are what really need attention. To get to the core, I make sure that everyone has a voice and is included in the conversation. All parts need to be heard, and all voices hold apiece of the wisdom of the family that is attempting to emerge.