Systemic family therapy is based on system theory to explain how a family system regulates homeostasis by the individual members and the whole family responding to any change, expected or unexpected, during a family’s life cycle.
The wider systems and contexts outside the family play important roles to support the family system to function and stay as healthy as possible. These can all apply to wider systems and contexts in order to adapt and survive over time.
At present during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown many families and children experience isolation and are disconnected from the wider systems and context i.e. extended family and relatives, friends, school, workplace, community, support network, and the whole world.
The advantage of technological advance at present has, to some extent, helped the impact of isolation. Everyone has a choice and the opportunity to interact remotely with the wider system through the social media.
However, this is only a choice that can help individuals and a family system to maintain a healthy environment to function and survive when the entire world is in turmoil and dysfunction during the lockdown in the COVID-19 pandemic. There are still so many who may not or cannot, for various reasons choose or take advantage of this opportunity and can become more isolated and disconnected from outside world than before.
The isolation may result in much more enmeshed relationships. Enmeshed families are dysfunctional with lack of boundaries, independence is not allowed, emotionally or physically, and roles are confused.
The impact of the pandemic can go beyond affecting individuals and families, this may result in developing of enmeshed communities, societies, countries, and continents with systems and sub-systems which do not have a healthy interaction with each other and the wider context.
The impact of the pandemic is also much more complex as a result of all systems and sub-systems having to deal with all the psychological impact of current situations and the anxiety and fear of becoming infected by the virus, sustaining possible major losses including the loss of; family members and loved ones, jobs and income, home, and much more. Each individual and family will have a different experience of the extent of losses and trauma depending on what will happen to them during this time.
Feeling safe and secure at any stage of life is the most important factor to keep individuals and relationships healthy, functional, and strong. This is the prerequisite of a functional family system and a healthy, functioning wider systems including societal and financial.
This is hardly the case at present with what is happening everywhere with the struggle of the urgency to respond to this pandemic and find a way to get out of it as quickly as possible.
The most important question at present is: Are we ‘reacting’ or are we ‘responding’ to contain and resolve the problem? (The cockroach theory). Thoughtful early response and intervention have proven to be more effective than trying to resolve problems later on, when they become widespread, otherwise they can result in pandemics especially if they are contagious, like the one that the entire world is experiencing right now.
By responding appropriately to crisis and not reacting, systems can be supported to stay healthy throughout crisis and beyond. This requires a great deal of ‘self-reflexivity‘ enabling decision makers to stay focused to make appropriate decisions when they are also impacted like everyone else.
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Zohreh Rahimi is a clinical psychologist, family and systemic psychotherapist, and a clinical manager working at Freedom form Torture.