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A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Family Therapy

Health & Wellness
Oct 07, 2021

A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding Family Therapy

Family therapy is a type of mental health service that helps to heal relationships within families. This article aims to provide readers with the basic knowledge needed to understand how family therapy works and what it can do for your loved ones. We'll touch on key topics, including its benefits, what types of issues family therapy tackles, how sessions work, and why this form of treatment should be considered if you're looking for help dealing with emotional or behavioural problems in your family member.

What is Family Therapy?

Family therapy is a type of psychotherapy that involves the family to address what issues they are having. This can be anything from addiction problems, to marital issues, to behavioural problems in children. Family therapy can help strengthen what is working well in the family, provide support for what isn't working so well, promote better communication and problem solving skills, and help with any issues that might be plaguing the family's members.

Many times children will open up more to a therapist they aren't used to talking to than they would their own parents. When this happens, it becomes easier to uncover what is really going on for them and what factors may be playing into their behaviour at home or school. It also helps get both sides of the story when there is conflict within the family unit because one parent tells one thing and another parent another thing. Having a neutral party come in can give everyone equal footing and allow for better problem solving and communication.

Benefits of Family Therapy

Consulting mental health professionals who specialize in family therapy can have many benefits. It can foster healthy relationships in the family or help them deal with a loved one suffering from a mental health condition or chronic illness. Among the other benefits of working with a family therapist are:

  • It gives you access to what is happening behind closed doors within your home and learn what is causing the issue and what steps need to take place for there not be further issues
  • Effective for treating children's mental health issues because it helps build coping mechanisms into the child's lifestyle, which will help them manage their condition as adults (National Association of Social Workers)
  • More affordable than paying for appointments separately because some providers offer a family package that includes more than one person
  • Provides a better understanding of yourself
  • Increases self-esteem
  • Improves communication skills
  • Brings more emotional security even during difficult situations
  • Promotes expression of feelings
  • Reduces the likelihood of depression
  • Helps one identify their personal goals
  • Enables setting of achievable goals
  • Develops positive perceptions of others
  • Makes you self-assured
  • Develops deeper personal connections
  • Enhances intimacy
  • Increases capacity for self-care
  • Builds what is called an internal locus of control
  • Prevents post traumatic growth

While there are many benefits of family therapy, what is most important to remember about this form of treatment is that you need to find a therapist who specializes in this type of treatment. This way you will get what you want out of it and get back what your family needs. You can find these therapists through your insurance company or through online searches.

Importance of Working With a Family Therapist

If the therapist doesn't specialize in family therapy then they might not understand what issues might affect what kind of treatment. For example, some therapists may believe that what is happening between mom and dad has nothing to do with what their child is going through at school or what they go through at home. This couldn't be further from the truth. Almost always there are factors within the family unit affecting what goes on. Working with a therapist who specializes in family therapy helps you take what is going on behind closed doors and what things were like before they went wrong to what can be done about it now.

How the Process Works

Family therapy sessions work best when they include as many members of the family as possible. This means that if your child is having issues at home or school, you need to bring everyone together for these meetings. What this does is make sure everyone has a turn to talk and share their concerns without interruption from others. There might be disagreements because people don't want to agree on what actions need to be taken, but it will help get all sides of what has been happening so that there can be more effective communication instead.

There are several components that makeup what is called systemic family therapy. The first component is what's called the individual interview, in which case it consists of an assessment for what issues are present within each person in the family. This part is very similar to what would happen when you see a therapist on your own. Next comes what's called conjoint sessions in which all members are present and what has been discovered through the individual interviews are used to talk about what can be done moving forward together as a family unit (Friedman, 2010). Finally, there are child sessions, in which only children attend with their parents being involved in how this meeting will go down. Each session might last anywhere from 40 minutes up to an hour depending on what needs to be accomplished (Friedman, 2010).

Common Issues That Can Be Addressed By Family Therapy

A wide range of family issues can be dealt with amicably with family therapy. Marital issues are what you'll most likely see being addressed by this form of therapy. Other common issues that influence family dynamics, which can be resolved through this form of treatment include but are not limited to:

  • Stress management
  • Communication problems
  • Infidelity
  • Family conflict
  • Substance abuse
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood disorders
  • Grief and loss
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Addiction
  • Parenting issues
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Financial worries
  • Family formation concerns
  • Interpersonal relationship concerns
  • Legal/occupational problems
  • Developmental transitions
  • Work-related difficulties
  • Religious/spiritual struggles
  • Dropping out
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Disabilities
  • Multicultural challenges
  • Violence
  • Domestic abuse
  • Child abuse
  • Parental alienation
  • Sexuality
  • Adolescent behavior
  • Eating disorders
  • Bullying
  • Sexual orientation
  • Women's issues
  • Men's issues
  • Family member with mental illness
  • Family violence

As you can see there is a lot that can be addressed and changed through a family therapy session. This form of treatment will affect the entire family so it is important to keep what comes out of these sessions private. These results can be used as reference points for what happens in what will come next, not as proof to the outside world what has happened. What makes this type of therapy different to other therapies is what your therapist does at home with you and your family versus what they do within their office space. It would be like learning how to cook food but never actually tasting what was made--you would not know what good is if you haven't experienced it.

How Long Do You Need to Go to Family Therapy

You will most likely be working with your therapist for what feels like forever. The average amount of time spent in this type of family intervention ranges from 40 to 60 sessions (Friedman, 2010). Of course if what happens is what has been set up by your therapist can be resolved within what appears to be a couple of sessions, then what will happen is exactly that. It all boils down to the complexity of the situation at hand. There are other factors involved as well, including what issues are present for each member of the family, what you want to achieve out of this form of treatment, how long it takes to make changes in what needs to happen, and also how much effort everyone puts into what is being said.

The goal of family therapy is to improve the quality of life for all family members by treating deeply rooted issues within the entire family unit. It is an excellent way to enhance your family's physical and emotional health, as well as addressing any relational issues that exist between your family members. You can connect with a qualified practitioner in your area through the Natural Therapy Pages.

FAQs About Family Therapy

What are the goals of family therapy?

Among the primary goals of seeking family therapy are to open and strengthen communication lines between family members, to resolve family conflicts, to handle special cases like a member with a mental illness, and to create a peaceful environment for everyone.

What techniques are used in family therapy?

Family therapists use a variety of therapeutic techniques depending on the issues that they are addressing with the family they are working with. The range of techniques includes structural and systemic therapies as well as transgenerational therapy and psychoeducation.

Does family therapy really work?

Yes, it does. Different family issues that cause miscommunication, anger and broken ties can be addressed through family therapy. It can help families stay strong and together by fostering healthy communication skills and coping abilities.

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