Family Psychology is a Specialty

The specialty of Family Psychology is unique because of the perspective from which family psychologists are trained to consider the biopsychosocial problems of their clients. Family Psychology is an approach to understanding human functioning and treating problems that is based on general systems theory. The systems perspective assumes that the emotional functioning of individuals within a group is interdependent so that the feelings and behavior of one person can only be understood within the context of other group members.

The distinctiveness of Family Psychology cannot be defined based on the populations with whom family psychologists work because of its broad application. Nor can Family Psychology be defined by the number of people in the consulting room. Rather, it is defined by its systems perspective from which problems and developmental issues are addressed.

It is not so much that family psychologists treat different populations than other professional psychologists. Nor is it even that a family psychologist’s clients present with vastly different problems. Rather, the epistemology of the family psychologist differentiates him or her from the more traditionally trained professional psychologist. The family psychologist is trained to approach client issues from systemic and multisystemic perspectives. This perspective provides a vastly different conceptual model from which to view the complex presenting issues of families and their constituent members. Whether the client is a family, a couple, or a single member of a family, to the extent that the client’s presenting issue intersects with family or systemic functioning, a specialized conceptual model and related interventions are required. Consequently, a specialization in family psychology provides a unique perspective and approach to working with many of the same populations and problems treated by psychologists from other specialties.