Family roles and change

Often we find ourselves placed into set roles within a family. A friend commented recently….. ’Why am I the one in my family that arranges everything and everyone turns to – from my own children to my parents and siblings. Lately I have started to feel very overwhelmed but don’t feel I can ask anyone to help because everyone sees me as the strong one…’

Although this may seem like a very ordinary and typical family scenario, it has the potential to cause significant conflict and be quite detrimental to family functioning. According to family therapy theory, families are considered to follow scripts. These scripts provide stability in the family with each individual knowing the script and the role they perform, just like actors in a play. It enables the family to function and manage the day-to-day issues in life with efficiency, avoiding endless negotiations. However, the roles or character we are assigned may be unfair or too rigid.

Family therapy or systemic therapy is an approach used to enable families and couples to explore difficult thoughts and emotions safely; to understand each other’s experience and point of view, and recognise and appreciate each other’s needs and strengths.

It is important to remember that roles are not set and can be interchangeble or recast within the family. While some families are able to develop a new plot, the conflict in others may have become too entrenched and so objective support from a counsellor may be helpful in the development of a new storyline.

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