Are there issues in your family that feel just too big for you to solve?
Family therapy is a form of psychotherapy that seeks to reduce distress and conflict by improving the systems of interactions between family members. While family therapists often seek to have all family members (affected by the problem) in the room, that is not always possible or necessary. What distinguishes family therapy from individual counseling is its perspective or framework, not how many people are present at the therapy session. This type of counseling views problems as patterns or systems that need adjusting, as opposed to viewing problems as residing in the person, which is why family therapy is often referred to as a “strengths based treatment.”
“Family” is defined by the modern family therapist as anyone who plays a long-term supportive role in one’s life, which may not mean blood relations or family members in the same household. Family relationships are viewed as important for good mental health, regardless of whether all family members are participating in the therapy. It is an ideal counseling method for helping family members adjust to an immediate family member struggling with an addiction, medical issue or mental health diagnosis. It is also recommended for improving communication and reducing conflict.
7 common reasons for seeking family therapy include:
- When a child is having a problem such as with school, substance abuse, or disordered eating
- A major trauma or change that impacts the entire family (i.e. relocation to a new house, natural disaster, incarceration of a family member)
- Unexpected or traumatic loss of a family member
- Adjustment to a new family member in the home (i.e. birth of a sibling, adoption, foster children, a grandparent entering the home)
- Domestic violence
- Parent Conflict
Positive Outcomes of Family Therapy
Family therapy can be helpful on many levels. A good course of family therapy helps these 5 areas:
- Develops and maintains healthy boundaries
- Fosters cohesion and communication among family members
- Promotes problem solving through understanding of family patterns and dynamics
- Builds empathy and understanding.
- Reduces family conflict
Marriage and Family Therapist are trained in systems models, and they have clinically trained in multiple approaches (Bowenian Family Systems Therapy, Internal Family Systems, Experiential Family Therapy, Emotionally Focused Family Therapy, Transactional Analysis Therapy, Structural Family Therapy, etc.), that research has demonstrated is effective in helping families improve their relationships and follow-up studies show these improvements are long lasting.
Marriage and Family Therapist are trained to assess family dynamics and systemic patterns expanding to include multi-generational family systems. Our family of origin mentors our behavior, and we play out those dynamics in our own families. Once we recognize those patterns of behavior we can change them and understand what shapes us as human beings.
Marriage and Family Therapist’s assess family structure, or hierarchy, family subsystems, and boundaries, both rigid and flexible. Family therapist believe that an individual is best understood within the context of his/her family relationships. It does not assign blame on either the individual or the family but attempts to change the faulty pattern in which the family members have been interacting.
Family counselors look at the entire family as a system. A system is one in which the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Family therapy says that a family is a living system and change in one member causes changes in all the other parts of the family system. These are the emotional patterns in a family that continue over the generations. In families, the parent can pass on an emotional view of the world (the emotional process), which is taught in each generation, from parent to child. Reactions to this process can range from open conflict, to physical or emotional problems in one family member, to reactive distancing. Problems with family members may include things like substance abuse, irresponsibility, depression etc.