Integrative Systemic Therapy: Integrating Individual, Couple, and Family Therapy

Yaliu He*, Adam R. Fisher, Sarah E. Swanson, Jay L. Lebow

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Couple and family therapy is distinguished from individual therapy due to its focus on the interactional patterns between family members. However, there is plenty of overlap because of the reciprocal relationship between individual psychopathology and its relational contexts. Many clients seeking individual therapy aim to improve their relationships, and couples and families who have relational difficulties often have at least one partner with some type of psychopathology. This article presents integrative systemic therapy (IST) as a method for integrating individual, couple, and family therapy. IST is a multitheoretical and multisystemic perspective that utilises concepts and interventions from a variety of therapies for a broad variety of presenting concerns and populations, including individuals, couples, and families. In IST, a repetitive pattern of interaction is co-occurring at two levels – within an individuals' minds (i.e., intrapsychic) and externally in people's interactions with others in their system (i.e., interpersonal) – and they influence each other. Therefore, IST therapists utilise various interventions from individual and couple and family therapy within a case to disentangle problems occurring at various systemic levels. The paper begins with a summary of the theoretical assumptions of IST and introduces basic terms such as sequences. This is followed by specific descriptions of two critical tools, essence and blueprint, which walk therapists through the steps of how to conduct IST and integrate individual, couple, and family therapy. Finally, two case examples are used to demonstrate this process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-21
Number of pages13
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • constraint
  • integration
  • integrative systemic therapy
  • integrative therapy
  • sequence
  • systemic therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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