When we think of psychological therapy, the image of a person doing an individual session with their psychologist comes to mind. We may also think of group therapies, such as those of alcoholism that frequently appear in movies. We may even imagine a couple with many conflicts which go to a consultation together. However, these are not the only ways to give therapy. There is a therapeutic modality that brings to the consultation not only the person with their difficulties but also the family members. This is known as family therapy, and here we will explain aspects of this therapy and how it could help you.

What is family therapy?

Family therapy is a psychotherapeutic approach different from that commonly used in individual therapy. This therapy focuses on interactions between the family members and not on the problems or difficulties of a single person. In family therapy, the family is understood as a system in which the members are not isolated but continuously influencing each other. That way, when conflicts in their dynamics, vital or family crises, or even when a difficulty of one member appears, all components of this family system will be affected. In turn, they could help and contribute to solving these difficulties.

The reality is that all people come from a family, many will have already formed their own family, and many others will do so in the future. Families are our first place of growth and socialization. It is in the family where we learn to take our first steps in personal self-knowledge: Who are we?, what do we like? what do we want? etc. These and thousands of other questions, sometimes so difficult to answer, are beginning to be answered in this first social area that constitutes the family. Additionally, families, including our own, are influenced by endless circumstances, from the past and present, culture, society, and many other aspects. Without a doubt, each family is unique. And therefore, the relationships that are established between its members are also unique.

For this reason, it becomes clear that treating a person without taking into account their family environment can be fruitless. And this is where family therapy makes sense since we cannot lose sight of the fact that the family is considered in most societies as the most important pillar on which the individual growth and development of a person are based, as well as their roles, duties, values, beliefs, and principles. This approach not only takes into account social and family factors that surround the person. It also allows the therapist to intervene directly with this context and with the dynamics and relationships immersed on it.

What are the goals of family therapy?

The goal of the family therapist is to help restore the balance of the family when tensions, communication problems, or when one of its members has any problem that could affect coexistence at home. In a family therapy, the therapist will attend to the family as a whole. The therapist will study its dynamics, its dysfunctional communication, and its behavior patterns, having as the ultimate goal the transformation of a family that does not function into a functional family, where all members can grow and develop healthily.

In short, the goals of the family therapist would be the following:

  1. Promote the transformation of the family, fostering equitable relationships, mutual support, collaboration, and stimulating growth and a sense of collective responsibility.
  2. Help the family to change the perception of the problem, building a new narrative of the problem and understanding that the way of relating in the family may be related to the appearance of symptoms or difficulties.
  3. Helping to modify dysfunctional repetitive behaviors that could harm relationships.
  4. Promote the development of new healthy ways of communicating, encouraging healthy emotional expression.

How it could help you?

Surely more than once, you have been able to observe, in your environment, families with great difficulties. Even your own family, at some point in its life cycle, would have had to face its own obstacles. It is in these situations where family therapy can be beneficial.

Here we are going explain in what situations family therapy will help:

  • To help children and adolescents in different situations: fears, eating disorders, difficulties in school performance, drug use, addictions, etc.
  • To help after parents’ separation or divorce in the adjustment to the new family structure and composition.
  • To face the challenges of multiculturalism in the family.
  • To resolve communication conflicts and adaptation in family relationships.
  • To face and overcome mental and emotional dysfunctions and disorders as a family.
  • To assist in educational concerns between parents.
  • To help to face difficulties when it comes to implementing boundaries, rules, and reaching agreements in the family.
  • To face stressful life events, such as family grief or illnesses of one of the members.

Does my family need family therapy?

You do not need to wait for a severe problem in the family or for conflicts or difficulties to escalate unnecessarily. There are many reasons why you can attend family therapy since it is a psychotherapeutic approach in which both, family problems and individual conflicts, can be addressed. If you believe that you or a member of your family has any problems that has a negative impact on the family system, or you think that your family is going through difficulties that may need psychological help, it may the perfect time to consider going to an accredited family therapist who can guide all family members to understand what is happening and what can be done.

Victoria Ramos Kurland
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Victoria Ramos Kurland
Adults, families and couples
Languages: English and Spanish
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