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Evaluation In Marital Therapy: Family System Factors

The Evaluation and Treatment of Marital Conflict by Guerin, Fay, Burden, and Kautto discusses the what areas should be assessed when considering the course of treatment in marital counseling. Below are four factors that a therapist might gather information from when they are evaluating the state of your marriage. 

Premorbid state of the family/marriage

The multigenerational family system is important to look at. It’s framework can be used to learn more about the premorbid state of the marriage. Premorbid state refers to the level of functioning prior to the symptoms. The type of relationships and biological/psychological endowments of the multigenerational family system of both partners start the marriage off at a given level. For instance, is the system made of cohesive relationships? Is there cutoff between family members? What type of stress is the family system under?


The multigenerational diagram of the family if organized by a genogram. This diagram allows the counselor to organize the data in a clinically useful way. This tool, created by Bowen, is also used for therapeutic interventions. The premorbid state of the family and the acute stress a couple is enduring are used to help guide the marriage counselor to monitor the emotional climate in the family system.

Family stress

A family or individual must respond to stress. There are three ways significantly high levels of stress will reveal themselves in a marital relationship.

  1. Stress heightens any other preexisting vulnerability.

  2. Our emotional reactivity and automatic behaviors are triggered by stress, which means it is more difficult to think things through.

  3. People under stress become more needy. Any expectation brought to the marriage is heightened.

Transition times

Transition times give any system a sense of loss of control. A marriage counselor can help look at different transitions such as marriage, the birth of a child, adolescence, mid-life, retirement, and the death of a family member. Families who experience multiple transitions at the same time experience a cluster of stress. 

Choosing the appropriate treatment options and interventions means taking a thorough evaluation of the marriage. Giving marriage counselors time up front to look at the spectrum of the family system issues can save you time in the long run.

Give Amy Wine Counseling Center a call at 832-421-8715 if any of these areas are things you identify as a struggle. A counselor is available to help you manage them more effectively so that it doesn’t impact your relationship indefinitely.


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