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Our family affects who we are and plays a large role in who we grow up to be.
We learn habits, principles, customs and form perspectives based on these important relationships. We also learn how to support, love, communicate and interact with others via family relationships.
While some of us are lucky to have healthy families, many have to come to terms that their family is in fact, not perfect. Dysfunctional families can have a negative effect on the members, but with family therapy, this situation can be improved.
What Is Family Therapy?
Family therapy refers to psychotherapy that aims to reduce conflict and stressors among family members. It is a treatment designed to address problems that are affecting the health and functioning of a particular family.
It differs from individual counselling and group therapy in its perspective and approach and often views problems as behaviour patterns that need adjusting.
Known as a ‘strength based treatment’, family therapy is ideal for helping family members adjust to changes as well as improving communication, and strengthening relationships. It can also be used to help families get through difficult seasons or major transitions.
What Is The Goal Of Family Therapy?
The goal of family therapy is simple. It aims to help families move towards healthy family dynamics. This is achieved by family members working together to overcome emotional, mental and psychological issues that are causing problems in the family.
While different families may have different immediate goals based on their presenting issues, family therapists typically help by promoting better communication, equipping family members to overcome issues they are struggling with and creating a better family environment.
Types Of Family Therapy
There are numerous types of family therapy that can help those who are struggling. These include:
Structural Family Therapy
Structural family therapy or SFT approaches the issues individuals face based on the functioning of the family unit. Structural family therapy focuses on family structure and hierarchy as well as the roles of each family member.
These aspects are broken down to address ongoing family dysfunction and equip the client with the tools needed to resolve conflicts and develop healthy relationships.
Strategic Family Therapy
In strategic family therapy, the therapist takes a hands-on approach first by observing family interactions and figuring out the conflict. The therapist then analyses family dynamics and sets goals to get the family to work together. Each family member may also be given a specific assignment to help resolve conflict or any other problems.
Functional Family Therapy
Functional family therapy (FFT) is usually a short term treatment based on building trust and respect among family members or individuals who are involved. FFT works to motivate individuals to spot and focus on the positive aspects of their lives. It is often used to help adolescents who are struggling with substance abuse, anger and violence.
Systemic Family Therapy
As the name suggests, problems are approached in a systemic method in systemic family therapy. Patterns of behaviour in family members are identified and replaced with new, healthy positive patterns. Systemic family therapy is a popular method used in education and social work.
Narrative Family Therapy
Narrative family therapy aims to identify and encourage people to use the natural skills and competencies that they possess to bring about positive changes in life. Individuals are taught to set themselves apart from the issue they are facing with the goal of changing how the issues affect them. As such, there is less focus on changing the person.
10 Reasons To See A Family Therapist
Family therapy can help you in many ways. Here are 10 good reasons to see a family therapist.
You Have A Blended Family
Blended families are increasingly more common these days. However, navigating changes and adjusting to new family dynamics can pose many challenges. Family therapy can be a safe space for parents as well as children to share how they feel and be open about what they need. It can be a great way to ensure that each child in the blended family feels love and support.
Dealing With Loss And Grief
The time of loss and grief can be intense and even confusing. Feeling extreme sadness, and anger, when we lose someone dear to us, is not uncommon. Family therapy can help those who are dealing with loss to go through the mourning process and grieve properly with care and support. It also helps you to overcome any negative emotions due to the loss.
Dealing With Mental Health Issues
Issues with mental health do not just affect the individual who is suffering from it but also the rest of the family. Family therapy can help the whole family navigate the situation more effectively while maintaining healthy relationships with each other. The safe space that therapy provides helps you learn how to support each other, instead of avoiding the hard topics.
Dealing With Separation Or Divorce
Family therapy can help children and parents to adapt to the new family dynamics when parents separate or divorce. This is important as children whose parents are going through a divorce very often feel like their world has turned upside down. A family therapist can provide an alternate perspective to the turmoil they are feeling and help them to remain emotionally healthy during this season.
Dealing With Infidelity
Infidelity can tear families apart. A family therapist can help couples recover and rebuild the relationship. Although there will be hard work, there are many couples who have become closer and stronger after infidelity with the help of family therapy.
Dealing With Substance Abuse Or Addiction
It can be extremely hard for the entire family when one family member is struggling with addiction or substance abuse. For example, children of an addict can be affected emotionally, psychologically and even physically, and may themselves turn to substance use. A family therapist can offer strategies to help the family to come to terms with their situation and equip them with tools and strategies to continue with their everyday life.
Dealing With A Serious Health Issue
Serious health issues do not just affect one physically but also bring about a ton of underlying emotions. Disrupted routines, stress, worry and anxiety are just some of the things that families with a member struggling with serious health issues may experience. Family therapy can help family members work through these emotions and give them a boost in coming up with solutions that will help.
You Have A Teenager
The teenage years can be hard. It is full of emotions as adolescents are dealing with the many changes occurring in and around them. Oftentimes, the teen themselves do not know why they are upset or behaving negatively. This makes it hard for parents and other siblings to understand what is going on. Family therapy can help navigate the teenage years.
Dealing With A Lack Of Sexual Connection
While the sexual connection is between the parents in a family unit, the lack of it can be felt by the entire family. A healthy marital relationship includes sexual intimacy. The lack of it can be due to many factors including communication problems, unmet expectations, medication and even ageing. However, this should be addressed as it will sooner or later affect the whole family unit.
Dealing With Isolation, Disconnection or Loneliness
Families can grow apart for many reasons. We’re busy with work while our children are busy with school. We’re distracted by our devices and stressed out with all the things that need to get done.
Whatever the reason is, family therapy can be of great help if you feel that your family is growing apart. A therapist can help build good communication, encourage family members to express their feelings and provide tools to cope with the issues at hand.
What To Expect In Family Therapy?
Your therapist will most likely talk to every family member to try and understand what is going on. He or she will make an assessment of the problem and how the family has been managing it thus far.
Pertinent information such as family history, roles of family members, parenting approaches and coping strategies used may be required by your therapist.
Once this is done, a treatment plan will be proposed to help improve family dynamics as well as other goals in improving conflict. Your therapist can help improve communication and equip you and your family members with tools that will help you get through difficult situations.
How Long Does Family Therapy Last?
Treatment can be for as little as 8 weeks or up to 6 months and longer, depending on the family therapy interventions needed as well as how responsive the families are.
Families who are cooperative in listening and applying the techniques learned will probably conclude therapy sessions faster. However, reaching the goal of a stable family with healthy relationships is more important than the length of therapy.
Finding The Best Family Therapist For You
Finding the right therapist is important because a good fit will help facilitate success. Here are some things to consider before starting family therapy:
- Is the therapist trained and licensed?
- Does the therapist have experience treating families with similar challenges?
- Where is the therapist office and what are his or her hours? Will you need to travel far for sessions?
- What is the cost and will the therapy sessions be covered by health insurance? Will you have to pay upfront?
- Do you and your family members feel heard in the sessions?
- How long will each session last?
Family therapy can help families to function in a better and healthier way. If you find your family going through a tough time, then a family therapist might be able to help you overcome the issues you or a family member is struggling with. With some work and a good therapist, your family can soon get back on track.