What is Family Therapy and how it works? 

What is Family Therapy and how it works? 

Family Therapy

Therapeutic work with families is an ancient art that has been practiced throughout human history. In the United States, it began in the 20th century and continues into the 21st century. Professionals focus on improving family dynamics and relationships, using methods like counseling, therapy, educational enrichment, and prevention. Family therapy is the general term for remediation work with families. This idea encompasses the work that family professionals—marital and family therapists, licensed counselors, professional social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, social counselors, and clergy—do under many titles.

Family therapies are used in issues that involve the family-related aspects like a blended family, when both parents have been married before, and may struggle to control their children’s erratic and confusing behavior. Another example of this could be a household where a parent passed away too soon and the 13-year-old ran away from home.

Also Read: Family Dynamics: Navigating Relationships and Parenthood in Your Lifestyle

What Happens in Family Therapy?

All members of a family’s immediate circle, stepfamily, and, on occasion, other relatives (grandparents, for example) participate in family therapy. Multiple sessions are conducted by a therapist or team of therapists to assist families in resolving major challenges that may disrupt the family’s ability to function and the home environment. During the therapeutic sessions, a therapist must consider a few following factors:

  • Families vary greatly in terms of their composition, size, and structure.
  • They also differ in the rules, values, and language that they use, all of which the therapist must take into consideration when treating the family.
  • Finally, the therapist must be aware of the cultural and multigenerational influences on the family and the rules, values, and language that they speak.

When Is It Used?

Family therapy can be practiced or used to address the following issues related to family structure and function:

  • Encourage and enhance communication
  • Adjust and modify rigid directions, regulations, and relationships
  • Educate, model, and address myths
  • Boost the family structure
  • Recognize and manage difficult family circumstances
  • Increase family members’ individuality and separation

  • Strengthen the bond between parents
  • Resolve family issues and enhance the home environment.

Types of Family Therapy

1. Structural Family Therapy

The goal of structural therapy is to reinforce and modify the family structure such that parents maintain authority and that both adults and children establish healthy boundaries. In order to watch, learn from, and improve their capacity to assist the family in fortifying their relationships, the therapist “joins” the family during this type of therapy. Boundaries are the main concern.

Also Read: Family Manipulation Tactics and How to Deal with Them

The purpose of structural family therapy is to increase the family’s adaptive capacity. In contrast to many other therapy modalities, knowledge is not thought to be required for change. Instead of diving into or analyzing the past, the focus is on changing the present. The family system is the current objective of your intervention, which you enter and utilize yourself to change.

2. Strategic Family Therapy

In this kind of psychotherapy, the therapist takes charge of the therapeutic process, develops a unique plan of action for addressing each client’s unique issue, and recognizes that their actions have a direct impact on other individuals. It is based on ideas from communication theory and has roots in structural family therapy. The following are the keys to this type of therapy:

  • Can be brief, often lasting only eight to sixteen sessions
  • The therapist must be proactive in setting goals and deciding on interventions
  • The therapist must be specific and focused, eliminating distractions and concentrating only on the most important techniques
  • The therapy follows the same general framework as structural family therapy.

This approach holds that each issue is symbolic of a broken system. Symptoms are understood as means of communication that serve as a contract between family members and transmit a certain message. From a developmental perspective, strategic family therapists assume that the family’s difficulties stem from an inability to appropriately adjust to their respective developmental stage. Your goal is not to try to make a “healthy” family, but rather to design interventions to assist the family in handling current development tasks effectively.

Also Read: The Psychology behind Family Love

3. Solution- Focused Brief Therapy

Using questions intended to identify exceptions (times when the problem is not present or might arise less in the client’s real life), solutions (a description of what life will be like when the problem is gone or resolved), and scales—which are used to measure the client’s current stage of progress toward a solution and reveal the behaviors needed to achieve or maintain further progress—solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) is a future-focused, goal-directed approach to brief therapy. Furthermore, SFBT recommends that therapists work with clients to find solutions rather than analyzing and researching their problems. With SFBT, therapists adopt a very postmodern approach, rejecting the idea that looking back is required and instead focusing on the present.

Process of Family Therapy

At the first therapy session, the family defines the family and decides who will come for therapy, present their problem, and who will be assigned responsibility. The therapist must respect the family’s “opening move” and understand the problem as they see it. The therapy journey is high stakes, with both gains and losses.

The therapist validates the family’s initial definition of their family during therapy, working both overtly and covertly to expand and include elements of their own definition. The family may initially believe the problem is a marital issue, but the therapist may challenge this view by inviting the family to consider a different definition. This challenge can change the family’s definition and mold it into a more shared vision.

If a family member is essential for inclusion, the therapist must decide whether to acquiesce to the family’s definition, push for change, or compromise by setting up an “empty chair” for the missing family member.

In the therapeutic process…

Family therapists may need to change the family definition to accommodate various circumstances. For example, a therapist may ask a family to include a friend of an adolescent to help move the therapy process forward. The therapist must also be flexible to accommodate requests for non-family members to be admitted into the family. In medical or legal emergencies, the therapist may need to include hospital staff and therapists as new members of the family’s definition. Negotiating the definition of the family in therapy is crucial in today’s world where the traditional two-parent nuclear family is becoming the norm.

Also Read: Influence of Family Harmony on Teens

Single-parent families and blended families make the process even more complicated and often volatile. The therapist must remain clear about who is the client for legal purposes. Collaboration in family therapy is set within a legal framework, and the therapist must consider the family’s previous definition, expectations, and personal preferences. The ultimate goal is to learn from the client’s family about their family definition and apply skill and training to assist the family in redefining itself and bringing about therapeutic change.

  • Backhaus, K. (2011). Solution-focused brief therapy with families. In L. Metcalf (Ed.), Marriage and family therapy: A practice-oriented approach (pp. 287–312). Springer Publishing Company.
  • Jurich, Anthony & Johnson, Lee. (2008). The Process of Family Therapy. Marriage & Family Review. 28. 191-208.
  • Carr, A. (2006a). Family Therapy: concepts, process and practice. (2nd ed., Ser. wiley series). John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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