Family therapy is a broad category that contains many different approaches. One of the most effective and widely-practiced forms of family therapy is known as systemic family therapy, and it was pioneered in the 1970s by therapists like Murray Bowen and Virginia Satir.

The foundational belief of systemic family therapy is that individual family members form parts of a whole, or a system, and that their individual patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving have to be understood within the context of that family system. For example, rather than having problems with her brain chemistry, an anxious or overachieving child may actually be playing a role that is required of her by an unhealthy family system.

There are two main goals in systemic family therapy. The first is to work with each family member to increase their ability to manage their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviour - without trying to control the thoughts, feelings, and behaviour of other family members. The second goal of family therapy is to increase effective communication within the family. If family members can take responsibility for their own stuff without trying to control other family members, and they can communicate effectively, then they can work together to establish a newer, healthier family system.