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Our family is a large part of who we are. We learn how to interact with others, and we form many habits, views and behaviour patterns from family relationships. As such, it is essential to have healthy family units. However, this is not always the case.
Many families have to deal with some sort of dysfunction. Nevertheless, this situation is not unchangeable, and family therapy provides a way for families to do so. Family therapy interventions are often used by family therapists to help clients overcome ongoing struggles.
Family Therapy Intervention Examples
Here are some effective family therapy intervention examples that are used by therapists to help build strong relationships and improve family dynamics.
Coloured Candy Go Around
‘Coloured candy go around’ can be used as an icebreaker as well as a family therapy intervention that builds communication and relationship.
You will need some colourful candy such as Skittles or M&Ms. Give each family member 7 pieces of candy. Tell them to sort the candy by colour and make sure that they do not eat it! You will need to have prompts based on the colour of the candy. For example,
- Red – words that describe your family
- Orange – things you worry about
- Green – things you want to improve in your family
- Purple – Favourite times with your family
- Yellow – Ways in which your family has fun.
Have each family member share about their family according to the candy colours and given prompts.
For example, if mom has 4 red candies and 3 orange candies, she will have to share 4 words to describe family and 3 things she worries about. Participants can eat their candies once they’ve had their turn.
Once everyone has had their turn, the therapist can facilitate a discussion and ask each family member what they learned, the most surprising things other family members brought up as well as how they can work together to see positive changes in the family.
The emotions ball is one of the great family therapy interventions for anger and even for divorce. A beach ball and a marker pen are all you need. On the ball, write several emotions such as ‘happy’, ‘joyful’, ‘sad’, ‘lonely’, or ‘angry’ on different sections of the ball.
Have all family members sit in a circle and toss the beach ball to each other. The family member who catches the ball will have to describe a time or event in which they experienced the emotion facing them. You can even have the catcher act out the emotions.
Talking about emotions can be hard, especially for those who find it hard to articulate what they are feeling.
Many times, negative emotions such as anger are not properly dealt with. The emotions ball helps families to share their emotions without the pressure of doing so. This encourages family members to discuss emotions as well as practise listening to each other.
This is a great family therapy intervention for communication. In this activity, family members need to communicate both verbally and non verbally, pay attention and cooperate with each other.
Here’s how it works. Have two family members stand about two feet apart from each other. They then take turns to be each other’s ‘mirror’ by copying everything the other person does.
However, because they need to move at exactly the same time, the ‘mirror’ person will have to think about what the other family member will do or how they will move so that they can be in sync at all times.
The activity can be started off slowly so that participants are able to get the hang of it. Have all family members take turns being each other’s mirror.
Paying attention and mirroring each other encourages family members to be more in tune with each other. While it can be a little difficult at the beginning, communication and cooperation will get easier with practice.
A genogram is often mapped out during family therapy. It is a comprehensive, graphic representation of the family tree that includes basic information such as name, birth date, gender as well as additional information such as:
- Education level
- Emotional relationships
- Social relationships
- Living situations
- Family alliances
- Major life events
- Medical conditions
- Mental health conditions
Mapping the family tree can help families to identify patterns that influence emotions and behaviours. Families are then able to work together towards replacing these patterns with healthier ones to improve family dynamics.
The Miracle Question
The miracle question can be used to help families to identify goals that they would like to work towards. It helps family members understand each other’s dreams and desires and what each person needs to be happy.
In this activity, the ‘miracle question’ is asked. ‘Imagine that a miracle occurred while you slept tonight. When you wake up, what are the things that you would notice telling you that life is suddenly better?’
This question is of great help to both the therapist and the client. The client identifies a positive future that they would like to have while the therapist is better able to understand how to help the client.
Some answers to this question might seem impossible. However, even impossible answers can give the therapist an idea of what the client needs when it is delved into. The ‘miracle question’ help family members to better understand, communicate and respect each other.
Family therapy is an excellent way for families to overcome issues they are struggling with. It is a unique type of therapy as issues are seen as a part of the family system.
Do not hesitate to look for a family therapist near you if you or your family member needs help.
Whether the problem is related to illness, substance abuse, addiction or everyday stress, family therapy interventions can be effective in helping you build a healthy family.