What Is Systems Psychology?

Updated November 28, 2019

Reviewer Karen Devlin, LPC

Systems psychology relates to other areas of psychology, namely theoretical psychology, and applied psychology. Systems psychology is a type of psychology that has to do with human behavior and experiences. It takes a look at people and the way that they act or behave in different situations or throughout life.

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Systems theory looks at a holistic view of the human condition. It also looks at more than just human beings, but also at other living creatures, man-made and natural occurrences and even non-living things as well. In general, it looks at anything and everything that we have or interact within our lives. The idea behind this is that by breaking things down into specific concepts and aspects, we can better understand those things. The theory is that we can't look at something as a whole or as a large, global perspective, but instead as the most basic and simplistic of the concepts within that thing.

When systems theory is applied to psychology, a common goal can be worked toward, and relationships can be improved. The theory is that human beings are always seeking something called homeostasis. That means they're always seeking an ideal environment that will provide them with everything that they need. They want to keep things the same and always to feel comfortable and happy. With systems psychology, the idea is to understand what that level of homeostasis is and how it can be achieved. It relates to expectations, needs, desires, behaviors and a whole lot more and to achieve true homeostasis everyone must have these things. If they don't, it means that there is something wrong with the system, under this type of psychology at least.

Where Systems Psychology Originates

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So far as we know, systems psychology started with biologists and biological sciences. That's because one of the primary aspects of the therapy is being able to view someone or something in their ecosystem and to understand the different pieces that all interact together. This is where it all started when it referred to biology. When applying it to psychology, however, most of the ideas and concepts have been carried over. Now, however, they're being used to attempt to understand different behavioral patterns and even explain why those patterns occur.

Different Types Of Systems Psychologies

In reality, there are several different types of systems psychology out there, because each different 'system' is considered to be a different branch of this over-arching subject. These different systems include applied, cognitive, concrete, contract, family and organismic systems psychologies. Each is important to the overall system, which is the human being who is experiencing it.

  • Applied Systems Psychology - Applied Systems Psychology is a branch of systems psychology that was started in the 1970s and combines engineering psychology and how it can positively impact living organisms and their real-world problems. This branch is all about figuring out exactly how certain things happen and what can be done to solve them. It looks at behavior and experiences and focuses on these areas as places where changes can and should be made, and where improvements can be made as well. This type of psychology looks at both humans and animals, so it's all about solving problems, no matter where they come from or who they are affecting.
  • Cognitive Systems Psychology - This type of psychology is related to overall cognitive psychology. It's about understanding the two distinct parts of the brain, and the conscious and unconscious mind. Cognitive Systems Psychologystudies mental processes and tries to achieve a better understanding of memory, perception, creativity, thinking, problem-solving, language use and attention in relation to the way that these two areas of the brain interact. For those who are looking to understand better how to analyze or plan out a specific situation or idea, this is the way to go about it. Cognitive systems are the ones that are used to create these types of understanding.
  • Concrete Systems Psychology -Here, you're going to look at the study of human systems based on biological contexts. This specific form of psychology compares different biological contexts as well as different situations that happen on a normal day. It then seeks to understand the way that an individual will react or engage in each of these situations. By understanding these more fully it's possible to predict behaviors better and understand outcomes to different situations or different events happening throughout the world. Understanding human behavior is the overall ideal and basic consideration of this particular type of psychology.

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  • Contract-Systems Psychology - With this type of psychology, the focus is on the way that humans change and grow throughout participative organizations. It's about understanding how people can grow and change together and what it means actually to be in relationships with others. This doesn't mean only familial or romantic relationships, but this also can include relationships between friends or even between people who only vaguely know one another. It's about the way that different people interact with one another and the over-arching social contract that is going on around them at all times.
  • Family Systems Psychology -Understanding families and how they interact with one another is an important and well-known branch of psychology. The focus of this type of psychology is to learn more about the way that families interact together and how to improve interactions positively and healthily. Among the most important focuses of Family, Systems Psychology is reaching an understanding of how to form a healthy relationship per each specific family unit. Families that can maintain this type of relationship will be happier and better prepared in the future. They will also be able to maintain a healthy relationship because they will better understand what their family members need from them.
  • Organismic Systems Psychology - Finally, this type of psychology is about how people evolve in general. Organismic Systems Psychology focuses on the way that humanity as a whole could evolve better, become better individually, and how individual personalities and tendencies are formed. This system also examines an individual's personalities as they are, as well as how to better interpret human behavior. The psychology related to this branch is all about a better human experience and a better way to understand how people can live healthy and happier lives based on their inner selves.

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How Systems Psychology Is Used

So, other than research, what can systems psychology be used for? Historically, systems psychology has been used as an approach to viewing and attempting to find solutions to several different health disorders and mental health conditions. These include anxiety, body image disorders, eating disorders, depression, substance abuse disorders, and relationship problems. By using systems psychology, it's possible to understand the individual better and to understand better what it will take to help them to achieve their level of resolution. The idea is that this approach focuses on communication and dialogue as well as creating positive relationships and an ideal level of wellbeing at the same time.

What this type of therapy doesn't do is look at the past. As a result, it can have some drawbacks in some areas of treatment where the mental health professional may not get the entire picture. The reason for this is that the past can sometimes have an impact on who we are and who we become. By skipping over this part in evaluating a patient, a professional may miss a very important part of the equation or a reason for the type of behavior or mental health condition that the patient has.

Getting The Help You Need

If you're looking for mental health help, recognizing it is an important step that you've already taken. If it has taken you a while to find help, it may feel like you have tried everything. You may even have talked to your local mental health professionals, but you're just not feeling comfortable with them. The truth is, there are a number of different reasons that you could be struggling with a mental health professional, but most of them probably center around the inconvenience of the appointments, the inconvenience of having to travel, the nervousness of going into a therapist's office where anyone can see and maybe even a lack of comfort with the therapist themselves.

With ReGain, you don't have to worry about any of those things. That's because ReGain has all the therapists you could need, and they're entirely online. You don't have to worry about how to get to the appointment or who you're going to talk to. You log on through the website and with any internet-connected device you have, and then you'll be all set. You're ready to work with the therapist you choose. Plus, they're located all around the country, and you get to choose someone that you're comfortable with. There are no limits, and you could immediately be talking with someone who's there for you, wherever you need them to be.


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