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Family therapy is a type of psychotherapy that helps family members better understand each other, support one another and work through difficult situations.
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.
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:
Family therapy uses various methods, approaches and techniques to explore these topics, such as:
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.
Family therapy can benefit family members of any age who are facing various experiences and challenges, including those who are:
Family therapy can be beneficial if a family member is experiencing the following problems:
What is Family Therapy? © 2015 Association of Family Therapy and Systemic Practice
Challenges & Choices © 2003 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
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