Family Therapy is a form of psychotherapy that seeks to reduce distress and conflict by improving how everyone interacts within the unit. It is a strength-based treatment designed to help families collaborate to address problems within the unit associated with stress, misunderstanding, anger, disconnection, and any unfulfilled needs.
Every family will struggle to resolve issues at one point or another. By coming together to identify differences, improve communication, and define expectations, a family can improve how they give and receive love and improve their outlook on life.
This form of therapy can help families cope with a myriad of stressors. Whether they are mild or severe, when one or more members of the family have concerns about or are struggling with mental health, substance abuse, chronic illness, grief, financial problems, academic concerns, or behavioral issues, Family Therapy is an effective tool to facilitate resolutions. It is also helpful for families who are experiencing a drastic life change, such as adjusting to a separation or divorce or having recently survived a trauma, like physical or sexual abuse, an unexpected loss, or a natural disaster.
Family Therapy is based on a framework that allows each member of the family to view problems as patterns or systems that need adjusting, as opposed to viewing problems as residing in one individual. This is what distinguishes Family Therapy from individual counseling.
Family Therapy can be very useful in reducing conflict, developing and maintaining healthy boundaries, fostering cohesion and communication, building empathy and understanding, and helping families solve problems by identifying their patterns and overall dynamics.
The most common methods used in Family Therapy are known as Bowenian, Structural, Systematic, and Strategic.
Bowenian is known to work best for those who cannot or do not want to bring family members into the therapy room. A licensed mental health professional abides by two core concepts, triangulation and differentiation. Triangulation involves the natural tendency to divert anxiety or conflict by involving a third party, while differentiation has to do with learning to become less emotionally reactive in one’s relationships with family members.
Structural methods focus on reordering the family system according to how the roles and power are distributed amongst family members, by making sure the parents or adult caretakers in the home are in control and work as a team in setting appropriate boundaries for children to respect. This method is also helpful in facilitating adult and sibling relationships and improving interaction.
In Systematic Family Therapy, each session will focus on the meaning behind family members’ behaviors, and proposes that family communications are happening on an unconscious level. The therapist takes a neutral and distant approach, yet confronts the family with rituals and behaviors that allow members to attribute different insights and understanding as to why a problem is occurring.
Strategic Family Therapy is a direct and brief approach to solving problems within the unit, such as hierarchies, coalitions, and communication systems. It is best suited for those who want results in a short period of time. In this direct approach, the family therapist prescribes homework meant to change the way family members interact with the person identified as having the “problem” or “symptom.”