These types of therapy share an assumption that an individual’s problems cannot adequately be understood without considering the wider context of the families and groups which form the individual’s past and present. Information about this wider system may be elicited within therapy sessions with individuals, couples or family groups. Some systemic psychotherapists also consult to organisational and business systems.

Therapy aims to identify and explore the patterns of belief and behaviours in roles and relationships (including sexual relationships) which seem to have become set over time, and to enable people to decide where change would be desirable, facilitating the process of establishing new and more fulfilling patterns.

Systemic psychotherapists, whilst often actively intervening in client systems, strive to maintain a non-blaming and neutral position, respecting differences of culture, race, gender, sexual orientation etc. Therapists may work in teams, using live consultation, or as sole practitioners using retrospective consultation in order to draw upon other perspectives to their practice. Therapy is often relatively short-term.