Learning Family Systems

A Conversation With Greg Burnham

We have ongoing themes each quarter where we get to do deep dives into getting to know who we work with,  explore each person’s background, and how they integrate their experience with their students and families. Last week, I had the privilege of speaking with Greg Burnham MS, LMFT, Clinical Director and one of our Primary Therapists. He is lovingly known as a “Smart Alec” and immediately identified himself as an older brother–giving us a soft opening to his personal relationships. Our theme the first quarter of 2022 is centered around “family” and I talked to Greg about his professional journey and how he ended up working with neurodiverse and twice exceptional students. 

Being in the mental health field for over 20 years, Greg pursued his graduate studies in Marriage and Family Therapy and is a licensed  Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). In this realm, he was able to learn family systems, intervening when help was needed. Over the course of his career, he has worked to intentionally move past the systemic problems such as boundaries in order to be more mindful on how he creates pathways for change.

“There’s a lot of blockage and impediments when it comes to change. If we’re not mindful of the strategy of how we approach it, we’ll hit barriers. [I work with families to] be strategic with intervention. Style, timing, wording [is all included.] 

We’ve all heard about boundaries and how they can prevent students and families from having a meaningful relationship. Instead of just offering a singular solution to creating better boundaries, Greg is thoughtful about how families operate as a whole.

“If a student is struggling, boundaries comes up–the reason kids do well, is because more parents are more rule oriented. Boundaries are [also] all about relationship, the interplay of relationship.  Creating structure for yourself, who [we are] as a person. But, how do we work to become our own unique selves while still being interdependent on someone else? ” He weaves in  Bowen’s theory that interdependence between members in a family create cohesiveness and an equilibrium. 

When working with neurodiverse and twice exceptional students, Greg says the opportunity to be an advocate was something that has grown stronger over time.

“It’s become a cause–something [I am] fighting for and believe strongly about. There are two interpretations with the neurodiverse population: harm/mistreated or seen accurately. We are not able to grasp the full picture of what this population are struggling with, their beauty, what they need, how to interpret their needs, and how to treat them appropriately.” Once Greg is able to understand the complexities and nuances that present themselves, he can begin to help other professionals and parents gain better acceptance/treatment. 

Some of the questions that come up for Greg during his sessions with parents may include, “Will my relationship be healed? Will we find repair? and “Will we be able to feel connected?” As a parent himself, Greg sees these questions constantly come up and challenges us to leave room for possibilities without being reliant on those possibilities. For the neurodiverse population and their families, these questions may turn into longtime belief systems. “[We can find a way] to live in the duality of hope and reality. Fears are about the future: will they find their place socially, in the workforce, in society, in community? Will they find their place? It takes tremendous work in learning skills development. How to talk to each other. How to recognize the energy you’re putting off. The art of having expectation without having no expectation.”

Greg was part of our staff spotlight feature recently. We select a member of our team and share a little bit about themselves and how they’ve impacted the work we do here at outBACK. Mostly, it’s a way for us to show gratitude to the folks we work with and the contributions they have made. You can follow along on Instagram to read about Greg and past staff spotlight features.

Photo Credit: Greg Burnham


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