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Family therapy is a form of talk therapy that focuses on the improvement of relationships among family members. We are here to provide you with top-notch care and guidance to tackle your problems.

Understanding Family Counselling

What is Family Therapy?

Family therapy is a form of group psychotherapy (talk therapy) that focuses on the improvement of interfamilial relationships and behaviors.

A family unit is a group of people who care about each other. In family therapy, a group can consist of many different combinations of loved ones, such as parents/guardians and their children, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, kinship caregivers, etc.

Therapy can help with situations such as:

  • Adjusting to a new life change (like moving) or a medical condition.
  • Changes and challenges that come with aging.
  • Death and grief.
  • Relationship conflicts, such as parent-child conflict or sibling conflict.

Mental health professionals also use family therapy to help treat certain mental health or behavioral conditions for one person within the family unit. For example, family therapy involving all or multiple members of the family can help treat anorexia for one person in the family.

Family therapy takes place with a trained, licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist, therapist or counselor, who has specialized knowledge in working with families. Oftentimes, they’re Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs). Therapy can provide support, education and guidance to you and your loved ones to help you function better and increase your well-being.

What are the types of Family Therapy?

Mental health professionals use several forms of family therapy, and many professionals specialize in certain types. The choice of therapy type depends on your family’s particular needs and circumstances. Therapists may combine elements from different therapeutic approaches to best meet your needs.

Some forms of family therapy include:

  • Functional family therapy (FFT): Therapists most often use this type to help families with children who have behavioral issues. FFT assesses the family dynamics that have contributed to a child’s problematic behavior, improves family communication and parenting skills, and supports positive reinforcement.
  • Marriage counseling/couples therapy: This therapy involves you and your spouse or romantic partner. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs) are specifically trained to help couples determine their problems and work on solutions. Issues may be related to communication, raising children, finances, understanding your or your partner’s mental health condition and more.
  • Strategic family therapy: This is a short-term family therapy that focuses on making positive structural and behavioral changes in the family environment. It’s based on the foundation that the family plays the most important role in the life and development of children. Therapists may use this therapy form for families with children who have behavioral issues.
  • Structural family therapy: This type of therapy looks at the inner relationships, boundaries and hierarchies within a family unit (its structure). It focuses on direct interactions among your family members as the primary way to bring about positive change. The main foundation of structural family therapy is that when guided by a therapist, families will discover their own alternatives to their problematic patterns of relating to one another.
  • Systemic family therapy: The foundation of systemic family therapy is considering the family’s issues in the different contexts in which they live. For example, the therapist will consider how one family member functions as a partner in a romantic relationship, as a parent and as a child to their parents. Context also includes cultural, religious and political views, and socio-economic status. This approach regards context as having the most significance for your psychological development and emotional well-being.

What issues can Family Therapy help fix?

Families attend therapy for several different reasons. Problems that family therapy can help fix include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Strained relationships between family members.
  • Stress.
  • Anger.
  • Communication issues.
  • Trauma (physical or emotional).
  • Coping with acute or chronic illness of a family member, such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, stroke, chronic pain or an autoimmune system.
  • The death of a loved one and grief.
  • Divorce or romantic relationship issues.
  • Coping with sudden changes, such as unemployment, moving or incarceration.

How do I find a Family Therapist?

A family therapist is usually a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), but they can also be a psychologist, social worker or counselor.

Finding the right therapist is often a time-consuming task. Try not to become discouraged. Talk to people you trust to give you a referral for a therapist, whether it’s your primary healthcare provider or a friend or family member.

You can also search for family therapists online through local and state psychological associations.

Be sure that any family therapist you’re interested in seeing is a state-certified and licensed mental health professional and that they have experience in treating your area of concern, such as divorce or childhood behavioral conditions.

Most therapists’ websites list the conditions and situations they help treat. If you have questions, call or email the therapist’s office before you choose.

It may be helpful to ask a potential therapist the following questions:

  • How long have you been providing therapy?
  • What type of therapy do you recommend for my family?
  • How much time will you initially ask my family to commit to the entire therapy process?

What are the benefits of Family Therapy?

Several research studies have shown the effectiveness of family therapy in treating a variety of mental and emotional conditions and health issues, like adolescent substance use, depression and obesity. Studies also show significant improvements in family member relationships and conflict.

These improvements can also lead to better functioning at work or school.

After participating in family therapy treatment:

  • Almost 90% of people report an improvement in their emotional health.
  • Nearly 66% report an improvement in their overall physical health.
  • In child-parent cases, about 73% of parents report that their child’s behavior improved.

What are the risks of Family Therapy?

Family therapy isn’t for everyone. If one or more members are reluctant to participate during the sessions, it can increase family conflict.

Family therapy is more likely to work if those participating:

  • Are open and honest with the therapist.
  • Are committed to making positive changes.
  • Follow their agreed-upon treatment plan.
  • Are ready to fully commit to therapy and do homework assignments (if applicable).

Depending on your situation, you or your family members might feel slightly more upset during therapy. Your therapist can help you work through these feelings.

How long does Family Therapy take to work?

How long you and your family will need therapy depends on several factors, including:

  • Your family’s specific reason for participating in therapy.
  • What your goals are.
  • If your family members are actively trying to work on the issues your family’s having.

Family therapy can be short term (12 sessions, on average), dealing with immediate issues, or long term (months or years), dealing with mental health conditions and/or complex issues. Together, your family and therapist will determine the goals of treatment and arrangements for how often and how long you’ll meet.

Some families participate in therapy multiple times over the years — whether for the same issue or different issues.

Frequently Asked Question on Family Therapy
What is family therapy?

Family therapy is a therapeutic approach that involves working with families to address challenges and promote healthy communication and functioning. It recognizes that individual problems are often connected to family dynamics.

What are the goals of family therapy?

The goals of family therapy include improving communication, resolving conflicts, enhancing problem-solving skills, fostering understanding among family members, and promoting positive changes in family relationships.

Who can benefit from family therapy?

Family therapy can benefit families facing a range of challenges, from parenting difficulties and marital conflicts to more complex issues like substance abuse, mental health disorders, or chronic illness.

How does family therapy work?

Family therapy involves sessions where family members participate in discussions and activities guided by a trained therapist. The therapist helps identify patterns of interaction, facilitates communication, and collaboratively works with the family to create positive changes.

Is family therapy only for families with severe problems?

No, family therapy is not only for families with severe problems. It can be beneficial for families experiencing any level of difficulty, from minor communication issues to more complex challenges.

Can families of different structures benefit from family therapy?

Yes, families of various structures, including nuclear families, extended families, blended families, and families with same-sex parents, can benefit from family therapy. The focus is on the dynamics and relationships within the family unit.