Conflict within families is very common. Sometimes conflicts arise because parents do not communicate effectively about family matters. Other times, families struggle to blend or separate into distinct groups. In these cases, a professional who specializes in family therapy can provide guidance.
What is Family Therapy?
Family Therapy describes a therapy modality that treats the entire family, usually around a specific conflict or multiple family issues. There are many types of Family Therapy, including group therapy sessions with all members of the family. Sometimes, the Family Therapist will also work individually with members of the family.
The goal of family counseling services is to provide support to each family member, so they feel heard, understood, and valued. In a structural family therapy, the Family Therapist aims to teach all members of the family how to communicate with each other in healthy ways. They’ll also teach skills like boundary-setting, perspective taking, role clarifications, and bonding activities to grow healthy family relationships and ensure functional family dynamics.
What happens in a Family Therapy session?
What happens in a Family Therapy session depends on what brings the family into therapy, the size of the family, and the severity of the conflict. The Family Therapist will create a calm atmosphere where family members feel comfortable expressing their feelings, including the pain points. The Family Therapist may set ground rules for the session and encourage all the household members and relations to keep an open mind.
Family Therapists may offer the group different perspectives from which to view their conflict. They may make observations about how each one relates to one another, how they speak with one another, and what they assume about one another. They’ll also teach the group different skills to practice outside of session.
If the Family Therapist meets with family members individually, they’ll spend that time helping the client process through what’s challenging them. It’s not uncommon for marital problems to influence family problems; or for children with behavior issues and emotional problems to cause familial stress. Individual sessions can also explore health conditions, substance abuse, mental illness, and mental health conditions. They’ll encourage the clients to reflect on the changes happening in the family and how they are contributing to this change with their new skills.
What can Family Therapy help with?
Family Counselors are licensed mental health professionals that can help with diverse family-centered issues. Many families seek help when major changes happen, such as moving to a new city, a divorce, new mental health problems, or integrating a blended family resulting from dating or a new marriage. Many families use strategic Family Therapy as a time to grow closer to one another through the completion of intentional bonding activities, instilling a family process by identifying family patterns, even setting appropriate boundaries, and exploring coping skills that can lead to a more cohesive family system. Family counseling aims to help all family members – but often especially children – with the following conditions:
- Behavioral issues
- Anxiety, including separation anxiety
- Chronic illness or a change in physical health
- Marital stress
It is vital to work with a Family Therapist who is a certified mental health professional in Family Therapy and who has experience working with families. Because this type of therapy involves multiple people, multiple generations, roles, and often personalities, having a marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in working with families proves most effective.