Therapy as a Family: What is Family Therapy All About?

Family Therapy

Therapy as a Family: What is Family Therapy All About?

Families are one of the most important aspects of our lives, but they can also be one of the most complicated. When issues arise and dynamics shift in the inner workings and culture of a family, it can be difficult to conceptualize what the problem is and what steps may be needed to resolve this. That’s where family therapy comes in. 

What is Family Therapy?

Family therapy is a type of psychotherapy that addresses the family unit as a whole, as opposed to individual family members.Family therapy is a type of counseling that helps families work through their problems and restore communication.  It is used to treat a variety of mental health issues and disorders, as well as to resolve family conflicts. It can also be used to help families adjust to changes, such as a death, divorce, or another major life event. 

What is the Structure of a Family Therapy Session?

Family therapy is usually done with a therapist who meets with the family as a group. It is a collaborative effort between the therapist and the family.  It ideally involves all members of the family as it is believed that problems must be addressed as a group and not based on one individual’s challenges. The therapist will help the family identify and resolve the problems that are causing tension within the family unit.  The therapist is also intentionally gathering information through these interactions that will help the therapist to understand the family’s dynamics and how they are affecting the family’s functioning.

How Does Family Therapy Work?

Family therapy is helpful in providing a space for each family member to provide their own perceptions and viewpoints of what the problem or challenge is currently.  Family members have an opportunity to hear one another’s perceptions as well as present their own in a safe way.  There are times when individual needs and concerns disrupt the dynamics of a family unit and this can progress into dysfunctional behaviors and interactions.  In a family therapy session, the goal is to promote a supportive rather than a judgmental or critical environment where one person carries the weight of being the “problem”.

Families have unique structures, values, beliefs and communication styles and in essence have a culture all of their own.  Within a family therapy session, it is important for the therapist to understand what your family believes is important, problematic and hopeful about the situation before problem solving.  

What Issues Can Be Addressed in Family Therapy?

Family units may decide to enter into family therapy to discuss a wide range of issues, including dysfunctional child behavioral patterns, substance use, marital problems impacting the entire family, parent-child dysfunctions, sibling rivalry, death of a family member, financial challenges, natural disasters or shared traumatic events, and social conflicts.

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