Family therapy fosters change and development within families and improves communication between its members. It is usually short-term, lasting anywhere from five to 20 sessions and may include immediate family as well as extended members. Therapy works to improve the family system by readjusting boundaries and enhancing relationships. Recognizing every family has its own unique structure, therapists tailor treatment interventions according to the family’s need(s). Family therapy is unique because it considers how a problem directly affecting one member (i.e. cancer or drug addiction) can change the dynamic between all family members. Reasons for therapy include but are not limited to the following: marital concerns, financial trouble, chronic illnesses, loss of a loved one, divorce, mixed/combined families, child rearing, and addiction and abuse. When it comes to finding the right therapist for you and your family, here are some details to consider and questions to ask:
- Educational background and experience/competence
- Therapy style and what to expect in session
- Insurance and fees
- Location and availability
- Number and length of sessions
Family therapy is a time for members to express emotions and address concerns about the family unit. Working with a therapist can help expose weaknesses and reveal strengths of the collective system and provide tools for strengthening weak areas. Therapy can teach family members how to cope with and handle the illness or disorder or another member such as depression. Therapists shy away from focusing on the cause of an issue, and base techniques on conflict resolution and maintenance as to keep members from blaming each other for their problems. The key component of family therapy is not the number of members included, but rather the analytical framework from which therapy techniques are implemented. However, attendance of all desired individuals is imperative for identifying the unit’s faulty patterns and communication systems.
There are many different types of therapy approaches: structural therapy, strategic therapy, systemic therapy, narrative therapy and transgenerational therapy. Structural therapy readjusts boundaries and order within the family. Strategic therapy examines patterns and interactions between members. Systemic therapy takes a look at the family’s value and belief system. Narrative therapy examines the content of a family’s story and focuses on detaching issues from particular members, and transgenerational therapy analyzes learned, dysfunctional patterns and behaviors that have been transmitted from older members to younger members.
Evaluation of problems is usually circular as opposed to linear because it teaches members to find unhelpful patterns and create healthy, alternative solutions. Family therapy can be sought as a preventative tool by members who foresee potential issues in the near future, such as two individuals with children from previous relationships who will be combining their families by marriage. Therapy will focus on enhancing relationships and improving communication.