Family Therapy, also called "family counseling" is a form of therapeutic treatment in which a licensed therapist helps a family to address specific issues affecting the health and functioning of the family. It can be used to help a family through a difficult period of time, a major life transition, or when one or more family members has an emotional, relationship or mental health problem.
In a nutshell, the goal of Family Therapy is to heal any behavioral, mental, emotional or psychological problems tearing your family apart. To do this, family therapists partner with the family to help family members improve communication, solve family problems, understand and improve family dynamics, facilitate deeper empathy, reduce family conflict and create a better functioning home environment.
In the context of Family Therapy, the term “family” does not necessarily mean blood relatives. Instead, “family” is anyone who plays a long-term supportive role in one’s life, which may not mean blood relations or family members in the same household.
How is Family Therapy different from Individual Therapy?
Family Therapy, like Individual Therapy, can employ cognitive therapy, behavior therapy, interpersonal therapy, or other types of techniques and exercises from individual therapy. However, Family Therapy views individuals' problems in the context of the larger family unit. The assumption of this type of therapy is that problems cannot be successfully addressed or resolved without understanding the group dynamics of the family. The way the family operates influences how the clients' problems formed and how they are encouraged or enabled by the other members of the family.
For example, behavioral or emotional problems in children are common reasons to visit a family therapist. A child's problems do not exist in a vacuum. They exist in the context of the family unit and will likely need to be addressed within the context of the family unit.
When should a family consider seeing a family therapist?
Families may want to seek the help of a family therapist to address a variety of issues, including but not limited to:
- children's behavioral , emotional or mental health problems
- a family member's behavioral, emotional or mental health problems that impact other family members
- family conflict
- divorce or separation
- custody issues
- substance abuse or addiction
- death in the family
- caring for a sick family member or a family member with special needs
- job loss
- financial problems
- domestic violence
- LGBTQ issues
- cross-generational issues - parents and grandparents sharing a hom
- families who come from mixed racial, cultural or religious backgrounds
- families with step-children and other blended families
- problems with in-laws or extended family
- bringing back family members who have been distant or isolated
- helping family members forgive each other
- reducing sources of tension and stress within a family
Ackerman, C. (27 Jun 2017). What is family therapy and what are its goals and benefits? https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/family-therapy/ (additional references cited in article).