Toward a theory of constraints

Douglas C Breunlin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Grounded in the cybernetic concept of negative explanation, the theory of constraints examines how human systems are kept from solving problems. To identify constraints, therapists must know where to look for them and what to look for. The theory proposes that constraints exist among the levels of a biopsychosocial system, which include biology, person, relationship, family, community, and society. The six metaframeworks of organization, sequences, mind, development, gender, and culture assist constraint identification. Combining the levels and metaframeworks creates a web of constraints, the complexity of which determines how difficult it will be to solve a given problem. The theory of constraint offers an integrative and pragmatic approach to therapy while simultaneously honoring the complexity of human systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-382
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Marital and Family Therapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Toward a theory of constraints'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this