Family therapy is based on the belief that the family is a unique social system with its own structure and patterns of communication. These patterns are determined by many things, including the parents' beliefs and values, the personalities of all family members, and the influence of the extended family (grandparents, aunts, and uncles). As a result of these variables, each family develops its own unique personality, which is powerful and affects all of its members.
Family therapy is based on the following concepts as well.
- Illness in one family member may be a symptom of a larger family problem. To treat only the member who is identified as ill is like treating the symptom of a disease but not the disease itself. It is possible that if the person with the illness is treated but the family is not, another member of the family will become ill. This cycle will continue until the problems are examined and treated.
- Any change in one member of the family affects both the family structure and each member individually.
Health professionals who use the family systems model in caring for people always consider the whole family. They view any problem in one member as a symptom of change or conflict in the group.
A family therapist:
- Teaches family members about how families function in general and, in particular, how their own functions.
- Helps the family focus less on the member who has been identified as ill and focus more on the family as a whole.
- Helps to identify conflicts and anxieties and helps the family develop strategies to resolve them.
- Strengthens all family members so they can work on their problems together.
- Teaches ways to handle conflicts and changes within the family differently. Sometimes the way family members handle problems makes them more likely to develop symptoms.
During therapy sessions, the family's strengths are used to help them handle their problems. All members take responsibility for problems. Some family members may need to change their behavior more than others.
Family therapy is a very active type of therapy, and family members are often given assignments. For example, parents may be asked to delegate more responsibilities to their children.
The number of sessions required varies, depending on the severity of the problems and the willingness of the members to participate in therapy. The family and the therapist set mutual goals and discuss the length of time expected to achieve the goals. Not all members of the family attend each session.
Family therapy is a type of counseling involving the entire family. It can help maintain positive relationships within a family dealing with a stressful situation or a life-changing event, such as having a loved one with a mental health condition.
In family therapy, each person can express any concerns and fears about how the situation is affecting their loved one and the family dynamics. They will also receive support for the frustrations they experience when helping the person through the challenges of their situation.
Family therapy should be conducted by a qualified counselor who has had specific training in treating families, such as a licensed professional counselor or psychologist.
Current as of: October 20, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & David A. Brent MD - Child and Adolescent Psychiatry