Family therapy is a type of psychotherapy that helps family members better understand each other, support one another and work through difficult situations.
What is Family Therapy?
Family therapy is a type of group psychotherapy. In family therapy, "family" is defined as a group of people who care about each other and call themselves a family. This could include parents and children, partners, grandparents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, caregivers and other professionals that are close to the group.
The goal of family therapy is to help everyone in the family understand and support each other. This type of therapy can help when families are feeling overwhelmed, sad and angry; when they're unsure how to move forward; or when they feel that they are repeating the same harmful behaviours over and over. If a family is dealing with changes associated with illness, mental health and substance use problems, unemployment, moving, ageing, divorce, trauma, and death and grieving, family therapy can be helpful.
How does Family Therapy work?
Family therapy helps family members understand each other and work through difficult feelings in a safe space. This type of therapy focuses on improving the interactions and communication between family members. It is usually used when the family is contributing to a person's difficulties or when one person's problems are impacting other family members. When each person feels supported and works within their strengths, positive changes in relationships and in people's lives will hopefully result.
Family therapists may:
talk about each person's hopes
encourage everyone to talk about their experiences and listen to each other
clarify each person's beliefs, values, needs, hopes and assumptions so that everyone understands each other
help families stop blaming each other and begin exploring how everyone can work together to make positive changes
help people understand the impact of their words and behaviours on other members of the family
help families talk about the challenges they're facing
support families as they work through their own goals.
Family therapy uses various methods, approaches and techniques to explore these topics, such as:
structural–strategic therapy, which includes identifying problems and coming up with practical solutions.
There is no single path when it comes to family therapy. Therapy may last only a few sessions, or it may take more time for some families. If a family therapist thinks it will be helpful, they may meet with family members individually, as well as in a group. Other types of treatments, such as medication, may be used in combination with family therapy.
Who can Family Therapy benefit?
Family therapy can benefit family members of any age who are facing various experiences and challenges, including those who are:
seeking a closer relationship
facing challenges, such as mental or physical illnesses
worried about their children's behaviour
interested in fostering or adopting children
getting a divorce or separation.
Family therapy can be beneficial if a family member is experiencing the following problems: