Family therapy deals with the couple or family and not just one person. It helps families, or individuals within a family, understand and improve
the way family members interact with each other and resolve conflicts. Family therapy is also referred to as couple and family therapy, family systems therapy, and marriage therapy.
Definition: Family Therapy
Family therapy is a type of psychotherapy that works with families and couples. It emphasizes family relationships as an important factor in psychological
health. As such, family problems are seen in relation to family interactions, rather than to be based only on individual members. Family therapists tend to focus on what goes between people; that
is, on how patterns of interaction within the family may foster or maintain the problem.
A family therapist may point out interaction patterns and behaviors that the family might have not noticed or the therapist may suggest different ways of responding to other family members.
These changes will effect each individual within the family and there will be repercussions in the whole system that hopefully will leading to a resolution of problems.
A family therapist can be a member of any number of health professions. They may be psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, nurses or simply people who have been trained in the
use of one or more types of family therapy. Family therapy can take many different forms with the therapist using a variety of different approaches including supportive counseling, cognitive-behavioral
techniques, psychodynamic techniques, or what is known as a systemic approach. Most practitioners are "eclectic", using techniques from several areas, depending upon the needs of the client.
Family therapy is frequently short-term and may be used in addition to other types of treatment, particularly for certain mental disorders that require more in-depth treatment.
Family therapy can help with such issues as:
Family relationships and changes in family life
Adult mental health
Chronic health problems, such as asthma or cancer
Supporting family members through separation, mediation and divorce
Child and adolescent behavior
Emotional disorders including anxiety, depression, loss and grief
Anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders
Supporting family members in step-family life
Emotional abuse or violence
Drug, alcohol, and other substance misuse
Approaches to Family Therapy
The following information about approaches to family therapy have been adapted from the Easyweb.easynet:
family therapy website.
Supportive Family Therapy is often used as a way of allowing family members to say how they feel about a problem in a safe, caring setting. Sometimes, the problem can be really difficult
to deal with at home (for example, caring for a sick child), and this provides an opportunity for families to get together, and openly talk about it, as well as offer practical advice and information about
further sources of help.
Family therapy using Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques attempts to change the ways people think or behave in order to reduce or get rid of the problem. Homework tasks may
be set, or specific behavioral programs might be drawn up.
Family therapy using Psychodynamic ideas tends to look more into the individual's own unconscious (sometimes called subconscious) minds. It attempts to reduce the problem(s) by uncovering
what is really going on 'under the surface'. It is hoped that by providing the individuals in the family with, if you like, the 'real' reasons behind what is going on, people will be able to deal with
their difficulties more successfully.
Systemic Family Therapy attempts to identify the problems and relationships, ideas and attitudes of all the family to get an idea about what is going on for the whole family. Once these
areas are clear the therapist(s) will sometimes attempt to shift the problem(s), attitudes, relationships, to a position that is more beneficial, less damaging, or simply more realistic. They may do this
in a number of ways, which may include education, homework tasks, experimentation (e.g. suggesting that the family try behaving or relating in a different way), or attempting to provide some insight to
the family members about what is really going on. The emphasis is on the whole family, and not blaming one or more individuals, for the problem.
In the real world, even though therapists may mainly use one kind, they can often use more than one type of family therapy, depending on their own judgment about what is best at the
Finally, remember that family therapy can be a very powerful and testing process to go through. Many people have found it very helpful, but there are some people whom it doesn't suit.
Don't give up if it doesn't work out, it may be that perhaps you may need to try somewhere else, or, perhaps, another form of therapy. Talk it over with a health professional (maybe your doctor) whom you
For more information about Family Therapy and other therapeutic approaches, please click
on the linked websites listed below.
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