Mental Health

Family Therapy

Families are a social system, each with their own special structure and patterns of communications. There are many factors that affect the structure and pattern ...

by Staff

Family Therapy

Families are a social system, each with their own special structure and patterns of communications. There are many factors that affect the structure and pattern of a family. The beliefs and values of the parents, each member’s personality, and the influence of extended family such as grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins, all combine to determine the patterns of a family. It is the result of all of these variables that cause each family to have its own personality and that personality affects all the members of the family.

It’s only natural that we turn to our families for support in times of crisis. They give us loving aid and comfort when we need it most. Sometimes, though, it’s the family unit, rather than an individual family member who suffers under a burden of grief, illness, unemployment, or emotional conflict. When that happens, it’s time to seek help as a group. Ask your family physician for a referral to a licensed family therapist in order to get the help everyone needs.

Concepts of Family Therapy

The concepts of family therapy are based on the idea that when one member of the family has an illness, it may be a symptom of a problem that extends beyond that individual. If one member of the family is treated when the rest of the family is also ill, it’s like treating the symptom and not the disease. As is common in other types of illnesses, if the sick person is treated and the family is not, then someone else will become ill. The cycle continues until everyone is treated. When there is a change in one member of a family, everyone is affected by the change and the structure of the family is altered. A family therapist who uses the family systems model is concerned with the entire family. The thought is that a problem in one member is a symptom of conflict or change in the group.

Mend Relationships

Family therapy can help to mend relationships, improve the way you work together as a family, and teach better coping skills for dealing with tough times. Such therapy is helpful in resolving family conflicts and for teaching family members how to communicate and get along with each other. Family therapy is a type of psychotherapy that is most often provided by marriage or family therapists and tends to be short term by nature. One session a week for 3-5 months often suffices in getting the family back on an even keel, though more long term treatment may be necessary depending on the individual needs of each family.

Some of the issues which can be addressed in an effective manner by family therapy are marital problems and divorce, eating disorders including bulimia and anorexia, alcohol or drug abuse, depression or bipolar syndrome, chronic illness such as cancer or asthma, loss of a loved one or trauma, work induced stress, parenting issues and skills, financial difficulties, and emotional abuse or violence.

Working Together

Family therapy can be useful as an adjunct to more individual therapies. For example, if a family member suffers from schizophrenia he will need individual therapy and medication; but his family will have issues that arise as the result of his illness and these issues can be addressed in family therapy sessions, either with or without the family member who is the unfortunate victim of mental illness. Sometimes abusive parents will be ordered by the court to attend family therapy sessions, often in lieu of jail time. By the same token, a teen in trouble with the law may be ordered into family therapy. Divorced couples are often required to undergo family therapy as part of the divorce process.

Family therapy works by gathering the members of a family together and giving them space to explore the feelings of the individuals and how these affect their interpersonal relationships. Role playing is often employed and is an effective tool for spotting unhealthy pattens of behavior occurring within the family circle.


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