Last week, hundreds of women therapists, and a fair share of male therapists, converged upon Charlotte, North Carolina's Conventiontion Center. This swarm of couples, family and sex therapists is here in Charlotte for a much lower-key event than the excitement that took place in the same town, where the Democratic Convention walls held just days earlier. I am referring to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy's Annual Conference. The conference theme: Women: Evolving Roles in Society and Family.
To understand the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, you need to understand system theory, which is the major psychological theory practiced by the many committed, hard-working professionals who travel from around the globe to participate in several days of training, networking and research presentations. To understand systems theory (assuming that you are not a therapist), just think about what they tell you on an airplane, only in reverse: "In case of an emergency, don't help the child next to you until you have put on your own oxygen mask." Systems theory understands that you cannot help a child unless you help their family. You cannot help an individual if you do not consider the important relationships in their lives. If therapy leads a married person to change, systems theory acknowledges that this will inevitably impact the marriage. These changes must be a part of the therapeutic equation. In other words, we are all a part of the relationship systems in which we operate; if we insist upon individual change, we may not achieve every aspect of the change we hope for immediately, but the relationships around us are bound to be affected. The power of our relationships and how we operate in them is key.
The takeaway: If each of us does our part as therapists, as women, and as individuals, we may not change the world overnight, but we create a powerful butterfly effect that matters.