How long have you been seeing families at Sinews?

I have been seeing families in therapy at Sinews since I joined the team in 2017. This is an element of my practice that I really enjoy as, unlike working one-on-one, working with the whole family paints a fuller picture of the some of the problems or history that has been faced. It allows the psychologist to “zoom out”, see the wider picture and access an abundance of information which is harder to get at through individual therapy.

What sort of problems are addressed in family therapy?

Family therapy can help address any number of issues, but it’s main focus is on difficulties in the dynamics between the family members. Family therapy can be most helpful when poor or little communication between family members results in conflict within the family, something which can cause much distress. Family therapy can be a great tool in helping to manage situations involving mental health diagnoses, substance abuse or addictions, behavioural problems or academic difficulties in children, a death or illness in the family, caring for a family member with special needs or an impending divorce or separation, especially when there are children involved.

Who needs to attend a family therapy session?

This depends on what is to be worked on in that session. In some cases, the whole family is invited to attend, but in others it might be preferable to see a specific subsystem within the family, like the parents, or just the mother and daughter. Before attending your first family therapy session, it might be a good idea to give the therapist, or centre you’ll be attending, a general idea of what difficulties your family is facing, and they can help inform your decision. Once in treatment, your therapist may have sessions will all or some of the family members as needed.

What if a family member doesn’t want to attend?

While family therapy can certainly benefit any family that wants to improve their dynamics or get support while going through a difficult time, this is only true if all family members who attend are able and willing. If one of the family members doesn’t want to come, it’s best not to pressure them. The family members who do come can learn skills that will benefit them, which in turn could have a positive impact on the family member who is not attending.

What does family therapy look like? How does it work?

Family therapy is a space that encourages and promotes healthy communication, which aims to create empathy, trust, and ultimately, a stronger bond within the family. It is meant to be a safe space for conflict resolution, forgiveness and stress-reduction. Sometimes this might be through dialogue, through play, or by learning new skills and applying them, inside and outside of therapy. The idea is for every member of the family to be able to express themselves openly, all the while reconstructing their story as a family unit.

Is there anything families should know beforehand?

Family therapy, just like any other type of therapy, is a process that takes time. There is no magic solution, especially considering that a family is made up of so many fluid and relational interactions. Each member should take the time to think about how and what they are willing to change and to take responsibility for and commit to it.

If you think your family, or a family you know, could benefit from family therapy, feel free to get in touch with the Sinews team for a consultation.

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