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On June 6, 2017 we had a lunch and learn on Systems Theory, a theoretical framework used to better understand our interactions with those around us. As human beings, we are all components of various “systems”: family systems, work systems, societal systems, etc. Our systems impact us, just like we impact our systems.

Examples of System Interactions

Family roles

In a family unit each member plays a role. Perhaps in one family the role of a parent is performed by a mother or a father, while in another family there is a single-parent and the role of parent is played by single-parent and the oldest child.

With siblings, each child might occupy a specific position. For example, perhaps the oldest child has more responsibilities and is meant to be an example. The youngest child might occupy a different position, such as being a companion or friend as this might be the last opportunity for parents to parent.


Boundaries is another component that makes up systems. Different types of boundaries may include: rigid, porous, or healthy. An example of a rigid boundary might be keeping others at a distance, while a porous boundary might be oversharing personal information.  Most people have a mix of boundaries: for example, one might have rigid boundaries at work, but porous boundaries in romantic relationships. Click on Therapist Aid’s (2016) worksheets, linked at the bottom of this post, to see what types of boundaries you have.

Functional Analysis of Behavior

Functional Analysis of Behavior explains the concept of doing something because it works. For example, perhaps a child wants a candy bar at the store. Mom may tell the child no. The child then throws a tantrum, and mom gives the child a candy bar. The child might then learn that if he/she wants to get something, one must throw a tantrum.

Utah Healing Center’s Role

Utah Healing Center recognizes the role and subsequently the impact systems have in our individual lives. We may be pleased with the way our systems function, or perhaps we are dissatisfied. This understanding is one of the reasons why Utah Healing Center provides individual, couple, and family counseling as we see the importance of recognizing the role systems have in our lives.


Butler, M. H. (1997). System’s Theory. Family Science 250/563, 1-7.

Therapist Aid. (2016). What are Personal Boundaries?. Retrieved from



Author: Hannah Wilde, CSW

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