What is Family Therapy?
Family therapy, also known as family counselling, is intended to help families deal with problems that impair their members’ mental health and relationships. Family therapy can help family members work out their differences, deal with mental health problems, and manage their children’s health concerns and behaviour. Family counselling provides a safe place to improve communication, understand why family problems happen, and learn how to help each other.
What Can Family Therapy Help With?
Family therapy sessions can help families cope with the following issues:
- Communication difficulties and conflicts within a family
- A family member’s mental illness (anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, PTSD, etc.)
- Child and adolescent mental health concerns or behavioural challenges
- Caring for a family member with special needs or chronic illness
- Learning difficulties
- Substance abuse and addiction
- Financial difficulties
- Suicidal thoughts and/or attempts
- Separation or divorce
In brief, family counselling sessions can help people develop practical strategies to improve communication and solve problems.
What Happens in Family Therapy?
Family therapy is often intended to help children and teens with emotional problems such as anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm, or depression. However, family counselling may benefit any family dynamics with poor communication, disagreements, stress, or grief.
Family therapy sessions can help family members better understand how each might contribute to a family’s distress. A family therapist works with family members to understand what caused the problem and how to solve it.
The average therapeutic session with a family therapist lasts 50 to 90 minutes.
During your initial session, your family therapist will ask questions to get to know you and your family, understand why you’re seeking counselling, and what your therapeutic goals are. Following that, the therapist will devise a therapy plan.
However, your family therapist will remain neutral – they won’t pick sides or assign blame. The point of family therapy is to help family members work out their problems, not to find someone to blame.
How Long Does Family Therapy Last?
Family therapy is a short-term therapy that lasts, on average, about 12 sessions. Still, the treatment type will determine how often and how many sessions will be needed.
Systemic Family Therapy
Systemic family therapy is grounded in Bowen’s family systems theory. According to this theory, a family is an emotional unit in which one family member’s problem impacts other family members’ feelings, beliefs, and behaviours.
So, in systemic family therapy, problems are looked at in the context of the “system” of the family, which includes how the family works and how people interact.
Therefore, each family member receives treatment. The systemic approach allows the therapist to work with each family member individually, helping everyone involved understand why certain behaviours occur within the family.
Is Family Therapy Effective?
Family therapy is considered an effective form of treatment. Various studies validate its effectiveness.
A 2019 review of the research on systemic therapy for child-focused challenges, for example, backs up the findings that systemic family therapies are beneficial for a wide range of child-related issues, including disruptive behaviour, eating disorders, long-term health concerns, and so on.
Goals of Family Therapy
Family therapy primarily addresses emotional, communication, and behavioural disorders within the family unit. The main goal is to help family members understand where these issues are coming from and how to resolve them.
The common goal of family therapy is to help family members deal with and get past problems. Still, the specific goals of family therapy highly depend on the individual circumstances of each family.
Benefits of Family Therapy
Family counselling can also help family members:
- Understand the family dynamic and how it affects each member’s problems
- Set up and keep healthy boundaries
- Improve communication
- Support a family member who is having trouble
- Be more open with each other
- Rebuild trust
How Can You Prepare for Family Therapy?
The most effective strategy to prepare for family therapy is for each family member to explore their perspective on family dynamics. First, consider how you feel about being a member of your family. What role do you play in family problems? How would you describe your current situation? What do you want to say and have others hear? Finally, how do you feel about going to family therapy?
Answering these questions might help you get ready for family therapy and work out what you want to get out of it