“In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.” – Alex Haley.

Your family, whether you like them or not, whether you are estranged or still living together, forms and shapes each and every one of us. But it is not just our genetics we get from family members. Our familial roles, interactions, and dynamics all affect not just who we are as children but who we become as adults.

That’s why today, I’m going to tell you all about family therapy and how it can help both you and your entire family. In this article, you’ll learn what family therapy is, the history and benefits of family therapy, what to expect from family therapy, and what types of family therapy are available.

What is Family Therapy?

Family therapy is a type of therapy to help the family improve communications and resolve conflicts. This therapy aims to promote understanding and collaboration among family members to solve the problems or issues one or more individuals have.

But family therapy doesn’t necessarily mean the entire family must attend every session. Family therapy can include only certain members of the family. That’s because this form of therapy focuses on family interactions and dynamics, not just the individuals themselves.

History of Family Therapy?

You can find elements of modern-day family therapy in family-focused social work in the early 20th century, specifically in the 1930s. Still, psychologists didn’t really begin developing family therapy until the 1950s. Many psychiatrists – including Virginia Satir, Murray Bowen, and Milton Erickson – sought a new, alternative approach to traditional individual therapy. Finally, in the 1960s, the psychotherapeutic community formally accepted family therapy as a practice.

What to Expect?

The typical family therapy session is the same for individual therapy and usually lasts between 50 minutes and an hour. Still, unlike other types of therapy, family therapy is often short-term. During sessions your therapist can help you:

  • Examine the family’s ability to problem solve and express thoughts and emotions productively.
  • Explore the family’s roles, rules, and behavior patterns to identify issues that contribute to conflict – and the ways to work through these issues.
  • Identify the family’s strengths and weaknesses.

Benefits of Family Therapy?

Like other areas of therapy, you can gain many potential benefits by participating in family therapy. Benefits of family therapy include:

  • Developing healthy boundaries.
  • Improving communication.
  • Defining roles within the family.
  • Improving family dynamics and relationships.
  • Providing strength and coping tools for family members.
  • Addressing dysfunctional interactions.
  • Improving the family’s problem-solving abilities.
  • Coping with stressful events that may strain family relationships like finances, divorce, or death.
  • Treating mental health conditions that impact the entire family like depression, substance abuse, or chronic illness.
  • Improving everyday issues problems like communication problems, interpersonal conflicts, or behavioral issues.

Types of Family Therapy?

As with other forms of therapy, there are numerous types of family therapy. Some commonly used approaches to family therapy include:

  1. Systemic Family Therapy

In Systemic Family Therapy, your therapist systemically approaches problems or issues rather than analytically. Essentially, the cause, symptoms, and issues of the past are all put aside. This form of family therapy works to identify patterns of behaviors in individuals and their families and helps them to develop new, positive patterns.

  • Structural Family Therapy

Structural Family Therapy is a form of family therapy designed by Salvador Minuchin. This approach to family therapy looks at family relationships, behaviors, and patterns as they’re exhibited within a therapy session. The therapist uses these observations to evaluate the structure of the family.

  • Strategic Family Therapy

Strategic Family Therapy, developed by Milton Erickson and others, examines family processes and functions by evaluating family behavior outside the therapy session. To create the desired change, therapists use techniques like reframing or paradoxical interventions.

  • Psychoeducation

Family therapy often helps people learn more about specific mental health conditions that may be affecting family relationships and evidence-based treatments for these conditions. A 2018 study found that educating a family improves the way the entire family functions. Similarly, a 2006 study found that families who better understand mental health conditions are better able to support each other.

  • Functional Family Therapy

Functional Family Therapy is typically used to help younger children and teens going through issues like substance abuse or violence. It’s a short-term treatment designed for these youths and their families to help build respect and trust for everyone involved. Additionally, Functional Family Therapy can help motivate individuals and focus on gratitude and positivity.

  • Narrative Family Therapy

In Narrative Family Therapy, counselors encourage individuals to set themselves apart from the problem or issue they’re facing. Then, the therapist works to help that individual decrease their issues by using the skills they already naturally possess. They then encourage the individual to make positive changes in that individual’s life. So, instead of changing the person, Narrative Family Therapy works to change how a problem affects that person.

Which Type of Family Therapy is Right for You?

As with virtually every mental health issue, familial problems affect both families differently and everyone within a family differently. That is why your family therapist must provide individualized treatment to both your family as a whole and individuals within your family.

So, if you are interested in family therapy but don’t know where to start, or have further questions, contact a Compassionate Minds therapist. Our team of licensed experts is equipped to help you and your family through most family-related issues. Plus, at Compassionate Minds, we work with each of our patients to create an individual treatment plan that works best for you at a time that’s most convenient for you.

About the Author Amber Jurgensmeier

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