MFT Exam Prep: Systems Theory

By Robin Gluck on October 26, 2020

 

The field of Marriage and Family Therapy distinguishes itself from other branches of psychology and counseling by its focus on systems and the interplay of relationships between self and others. MFTs are expected to think systemically. This systemic approach holds true whether you are working with an individual client, a family, a couple, or even a group. It is for this reason that you can expect to see questions related to systems theory appear on your California MFT Clinical Exam or your AMFTRB exam. So, what do you need to know about systems theory for the California MFT Clinical Exam or AMFTRB exam? Are you prepared to correctly answer questions on this topic?

How could systems theory be tested?

You could be asked to:

  • Develop goals using systems theory
  • Identify appropriate interventions
  • Determine treatment unit
  • Define and apply key terms

What if you are asked to apply systems theory in individual therapy?

This is often a point of confusion for test-takers, but it’s important to consider who is in the room and still integrate a systems approach to their presenting issue. The intervention may be directed at the individual client, but would still incorporate the system affecting the presenting issue. Let’s see how you do with this month’s FREE practice question. 

MFT Practice Question:

A therapist meets with a young adult client who recently graduated from college and has moved back home due to a lack of employment. The client shares that since graduation he has been depressed because he misses his friends, cannot find a job he likes, and is frustrated with his parents treating him like a child, making him come home early and not allowing him to be independent. How would a systems therapist proceed? 

systems theory

A. Ask the client to bring his family to the next session

Uncover the positive and negative feedback loops that exist within the family

Identify client’s support system outside of family

B. Ask the client to bring his family to the next session

Uncover the positive and negative feedback loops that exist within the family

Refer client for career counseling

C. Assess client’s level of depression

Assess client’s ability to communicate his feelings and needs to his parents

Explore client’s goals for therapy

D. Assess client’s level of depression

Assess client’s ability to communicate his feelings and needs to his parents

Utilize circular questioning to identify dysfunctional communication patterns 

 

(scroll for answer and rationale)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The correct answer is (C),

This is the only answer that addresses the client’s presenting issues, while also incorporating systems theory. A therapist working from a systems approach would still want to understand the client’s level of depression, though it would be considered in the context of the client’s environment. In addition, we would want to understand the client’s goals for treatment before determining if and when to bring the parents into therapy. Answers (A), (B), and (D) can all be ruled out because they each have components that require other family members to be in the room or because they are using systems theory terms incorrectly.  When you have theory questions, and they include key terms for the theory, always consider if they are being used properly and if they make sense in the context of the vignette.

MFT Clinical Exam Preparation 

How did you do on this systems theory question? Whether you’re feeling confident with your understanding of theories or not, TDC is here for you. Our MFT exam prep programs for the California Clinical and AMFTRB exams give you everything you need to get ready for your exam. Unlike other programs out there that can overwhelm you with unnecessary information, TDC offers just what you need. We focus on providing you with all you need regarding content and strategy and nothing more. TDC also offers you access to a coach who you can email anytime with questions that come up as you go through the program. TDC has helped THOUSANDS of MFTs across the nation PASS their exams. Are you next?

 

 

 


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4 Responses to “MFT Exam Prep: Systems Theory”

  1. Jo Ann Wilson

    This question was actually on the actual exam and I answered correctly! Yay!

    Reply
    • Robin Gluck

      Hi Jo Ann, Wow, glad to hear the question was a good representation of what you encountered on the exam and that it reinforces the answer you selected was the best available to you!

      Reply
  2. Susan J. Hill

    Hi Robin, Yes my answer was C because it made the most sense.

    Reply

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