Family Therapy: Definition, Types, Techniques, and Efficacy
Family therapy is a type of therapy that helps treat families that may have problems within the system. Read on to learn more.
What Is Family Therapy?
Psychotherapy in a family environment can enhance communication and help to resolve issues within the family unit. Family therapy is one of the most effective evidence-based therapeutic interventions available. It is one of the most used therapies by psychologists, professional social workers, and other licensed therapists.
This type of therapy is a subspecialty of psychotherapy that focuses on improving the quality of relationships within families and romantic partnerships. Family therapy is more beneficial if all family members participate, as the treatment concentrates on the dynamics of the family unit. However, this does not mean every member of the family has to go in order for other members to also learn from it.
In most cases, family therapy lasts just a few sessions and has a specific emphasis. Family therapy allows the unit to learn about their family’s habits, disputes, and communication styles. This, in turn, allows them to function more effectively as a group and learn how to work together.1
A Deeper Look Into Family Therapy
Why Use Family Therapy?
Family therapy may help your family strengthen their connections with siblings, parents, or other household members. Therapy allows the unit to freely and safely talk about particular family challenges, such as a failing marriage, financial difficulties, a rift between a parent and their children, or the toll that drug or alcohol misuse or a mental disease has on the whole household. Your household may explore family therapy in addition to other forms of mental health care, particularly if one of you grapples with a mental illness or a substance use disorder that needs extra counseling or rehab assistance.
Helping Loved Ones Maintain Recovery
Relatives of someone with schizophrenia need to continue to get their unique treatment plans, which can involve prescription drugs or one-on-one therapy, to help their families cope with their loved one’s mental condition.
Cumulative Healing for the Whole Family Unit
Also, when a family member develops a substance use disorder, they might attend family therapy. At the same time, their loved one receives treatment in an inpatient treatment center. Often, the family unit may participate in this therapy even if the individual with a substance use disorder has not started detoxing.
Establishing Healthy Coping Mechanisms
Any family circumstance that creates stress, sadness, rage, or conflict might benefit from family counseling. As a result, you and your family members will get a deeper understanding of one another and more effective coping mechanisms.
Types of Family Therapy
It’s possible to enhance family connections and establish a more stable, healthy existence at home with the help of various family therapy counseling methods. There are a few you may come across.
Family Functional Therapy
Young individuals who have behavioral or drug abuse issues may benefit from this kind of therapy. Intending to foster a sense of mutual respect and trust, it aids adolescents and families in finding solutions.
Narrative Family Therapy
Families may learn a lot about one another by sharing their stories and relating to one another in narrative family therapy. Here, family members perceive things more rationally by using accounts to work through their issues.
Helping family members better comprehend mental health disorders is the focus of this sort of therapy. Family members may work together more effectively as a cohesive support system if they have more fantastic information about drugs, treatment alternatives, and self-help practices.
Supportive Family Therapy
Supporting family therapy allows families to freely express their feelings and get the necessary support from their loved ones.
Some family therapists specialize in just one sort of treatment for families. Many prefer a more holistic approach that blends features of several therapy modalities to meet the requirements of the patient and family.
Techniques Used in Family Therapy
A therapist may choose to employ a variety of family therapy techniques, such as some of the following:
These strategies generally focus on teaching and showing family members how to deal with particular issues. Role-playing and modeling behavioral techniques might be utilized to assist family members in resolving communication issues.
Salvador Minuchin developed structural family therapy. The five guiding principles that lead the treatment here are:
- Structural therapists concentrate on people’s relationships rather than their separate psyches.
- The “Matrix of Identity” is built on personal relationships inside the family.
- Understanding family structures based on social connections.
- Acknowledging that “well-functioning families” are those that adapt to and grow with their members’ needs.
- A family therapist’s role is to assist one in overcoming development patterns that limit their potential to help their families in becoming stronger.2
This includes figuring out how each family member sees and reacts to the issues in the household unit. A therapist can use psychodynamic techniques to help family members gain new emotional insight and a new, better way of reacting to problems by working with the whole family. A psychodynamic approach requires that no critical player in the family problem is left behind.
One can trace the roots of systemic treatment back to family systems therapy. The current systemic therapy borrows much from a variety of family systems therapies. In recent times, systemic treatment has shifted away from linear causation and instead treats issues formed in the context of social and linguistic influences in the actual world.
In narrative therapies, each family member is supported and encouraged, making it the most individualized of the family therapy techniques. This approach relies on people believing in their ability to overcome challenges and be their best. Self-esteem and positive self-evaluation are among the several essential things needed to resolve conflicts in the family.
Therapy for communication difficulties is a common need, particularly when it comes to relationship therapy. Communication difficulties often stem from personal and cultural differences. Secrecy, trauma, and problems with one’s mental health are other possible causes of communication breakdowns.
Individuals and couples alike may benefit from various approaches to improving their communication skills. A skilled therapist can assist a patient in determining the most effective methods for enhancing their capacity to communicate. Establishing channels of communication, mediated communication, and active listening are techniques that your counselor may teach.
Psychoeducation is the process of educating people with mental illnesses and their families to empower and assist them in dealing with their condition.
Psychoeducation is a powerful instrument in the fight against the everyday stigma associated with mental health problems and individuals who live with them daily. The term “psychoeducation” refers to a set of four primary objectives:
- Information transfer
- Assistance with medicine and therapy
- Self-help training and assistance
- Access to a secure venting place
What Family Therapy Can Help With
Suicide ideations in a family member, self-harm attempts in loved ones, and parental drug addiction are among the most common reasons mental health professionals choose to utilize family therapy. Family therapy can, in these instances and many others, help save lives.
Issues Family Therapy Can Benefit or Resolve
Family therapy helps some families reconnect after too many miscommunication issues, or it helps those dealing with mental health struggles or substance abuse issues with how to reintegrate into the family. Other issues that family therapy psychology may help address include:
- A family member’s substance abuse problem or addiction
- A family member’s major mental illness
- Problems with the family’s general functioning
- Sibling rivalry issues
- A child’s conduct disorders (behavioral difficulties)
- A loved one who is afflicted with a long-term disease.
- Job-related stresses and other forms of external stressors
- Deficits in communication
- Separation, divorce, and other marital troubles
- Depression and anxiety
What Are the Benefits of Family Therapy?
Family therapy is a collaborative counseling approach that helps the whole family in multiple different ways.
Identifying the Root of Tensions and Obstacles
Specifically, family therapy allows families to try to identify the sources of anxiety, stress, or conflicts in the family. This, in turn, will allow the family to re-establish healthy interactions between family members who once had conflict. It also allows an avenue for better expression of difficult emotions.
A Deeper Understanding of the Interpersonal Relationships in the Family
Family therapy also gives each family member a chance to understand each other’s opinions through their own perceptions, allowing them to respect and understand the differing points of view and ideas that may be happening. It allows the family unit to develop a stronger feeling of empathy for one another as well.
Establishing Healthy Family Dynamics
An Example of Family Therapy in Practice
Limitations of Family Therapy
Even though there are many benefits of family therapy, it doesn’t always work for everyone effectively. The following are some of the disadvantages of family therapy:
- Family therapy might concentrate too much on the big picture (the whole family’s well being) and overlook the particular reasons for a person or family’s distress.
- Members may oppose or reject counseling in certain situations. In such a case, uneven motivation in treatment would follow, undermining the process.
- Families strive for equilibrium or homogeneity. Every member has to do their best to sustain the family’s structure. When some family members gain from treatment and others do not, it is challenging for some to remain motivated.
- Family therapy activities tend to bring up painful feelings. This vulnerable area may be both overwhelming and intense for many members, depending on what issues are being dealt with.
- If a member does not have a supporting framework, they may experience emotional drain and exhaustion.
Family concerns might be brought to light at the beginning of each session, making conflicts more visible as well. Family therapy helps in the long run, but it takes a bit of work to get there.4
Does Family Therapy Have to Involve the Whole Family?
Ideally, all close relatives living together should take part in family therapy. However, you may want to bring in additional family members who are directly engaged in the issues you’re attempting to resolve.
For example, if a person thinks that their grandparents, sisters, or uncles are undermining their parenting attempts, including these people in part of the sessions might be beneficial. It is the same if a marriage partner is experiencing issues with their in-laws. They also need to be part of the treatment program in such cases.
Who is Exempt From Family Therapy?
All family members must participate in family therapy unless, for example, a child is too young to grasp the problem, or the topics are unsuitable for their age or environment. Sometimes, adults need to deal with certain situations children should not face. Matters involving older teenagers may arise from time to time, and these issues may not be acceptable for younger children.
Depending on the topic of discussion in each session, the therapist will help with who is required to attend. When anything in the session becomes unsuitable for more minor children, the therapist will generally step in, asking the parents to remove their children from the room or defer further discussion until the time is more acceptable.
Can a Non-Family Member Take Part in Therapy?
The types of families that exist today are almost limitless. Imagine a scenario where a friend of yours lives in your home and is a regular part of your household’s everyday interactions. In such cases, you can call them family. Other times, friends who don’t even live in the home are such an integral part to the family unit that they could also be considered family.
In the strictest sense, they are not a genetic part of the family, but they still play an essential role in forming family relations.
What Can You Expect from a Family Therapy Session?
Many times, the aims of family therapy are similar. They are to:5
- Understand how family members interact with one another.
- Recognize and address any dysfunctional communication patterns.
- Use the family’s resources and capabilities to the fullest.
- Develop improved problem-solving abilities for the whole family.
This generally includes a discussion about the problem that first prompted you and your family to seek out family therapy.
Your therapist will offer everyone a chance to express what they believe to be the most pressing issues they or the family unit are experiencing, along with the reasons for their beliefs. It is a crucial component of the diagnosis for family therapy.
A significant portion of the subsequent few sessions will be devoted to collecting data from you about your family members and the dynamics within the family, such as the family’s history, each individual’s responsibilities within the unit, and how the family coped with issues or conflict in the past.
Your psychotherapist’s main point of focus is to get an insight into your family problems and how everybody copes with their challenges. They may urge you to reflect on your family’s power structure and how you make choices in your household to achieve this important target.
Your therapist can elect to use strategic approaches in your family therapy. If this is the case, you might have to deeply explore how the issue that drove you to therapy itself.
Your treatment team can also ask you to reflect on and discuss whether the coping mechanisms used by your family are still effective. These are important for designing the most appropriate family therapy treatment plan to bring the best results. They are essential in assessing the severity of the problem and the best course of action to take towards customizing a family counseling plan.
Mapping the Family Structure
Next, the counselor could draw a diagram of your family’s hierarchy to help you understand how you fit within the system.
The mapping may help you understand how you exercise power and make rules in your household and how they might evolve as you see fit.
Creating a Treatment Plan
As you and your psychotherapist work together, you’ll likely develop a strategy for improving how you and your household members communicate and solve problems. A part of your therapy could be to figure out and use your and your family’s unique abilities and strengths. It will help the counselor choose which types of family therapies best fit your condition.
Family Counseling Overview
Get Family Therapy at Pacific Beach Health
Having serenity, harmony, and connection are all things that every family dealing with mental health issues wishes for and strives to maintain. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, even if we all want the same thing. There is something special about every household and every scenario. We recognize the seriousness and urgency of your predicament, and we are prepared to assist you in any way we can.
Instead of imposing a particular approach or paradigm, families should be able to choose from a wide range of behavioral health treatments that will best meet their needs. It can include both individual and family counseling programs.
The best solutions will be given to families if the treatment team gives each family member the attention they need. At Pacific Beach Health, we have a varied staff of psychotherapists and counselors that work together to offer psychiatric treatment and other mental health treatments to you and your loved ones.