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How Family Therapy Works

A family therapist will help teach you how to live healthy independent lives while remaining strong as a family. Here's how family therapy works.

Family can be defined as a unit or group of people who come from the same ancestors. It can also be defined as two or more people who live in the same household. Today, family does not always mean blood relatives.

Family can be any type of union that is close in nature and in which one person’s behavior affects the other person either positively or negatively. While family typically refers to parents, children, and siblings, it can be extended to friendships and co-workers in some situations.

Relationships can be difficult, especially when it comes to family. Every family has issues they deal with on a regular basis.

Some may need help with conflict resolution or anger management. Other families may need help coping with a family member’s mental illness.

Getting professional help for these issues is the best way to become a more functional group. Family therapy has proven to be a successful approach to resolving issues that may be hindering a family unit.

What is Family Therapy?

Family therapy is a branch of counseling or psychotherapy that works specifically with marriages or family systems that need to change to stay together. It teaches all members of the family unit how to contribute to the relationship.

Family therapy involves counseling all members of the family group at once, not individually. While some therapists may see family members separately, most of the sessions are completed as a family unit.

There are many benefits to participating in family therapy.

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What Are Benefits of Family Therapy?

Family members can learn positive, coping techniques they can implement when issues arise at home. For instance, they can learn conflict resolution skills that allow them to argue responsibly and respectfully.

Family members will argue. This is normal. It is the way you argue that counts. When done with mutual love and respect, problems can be solved quickly.

Family therapy can also teach each member to respect boundaries, their own and those of others. Boundaries protect you from getting abused, whether physically or emotionally. They protect you from being used and teach you self-confidence and assertiveness.

Family therapy teaches members proper communication skills and can teach them how to act as a team. Building the team component helps the family overcome difficulties together.

This type of therapy also teaches family members how to create a positive living environment, build trust, and how to forgive one another.

If one member’s mental illness is affecting the rest of the family, you can learn how to cope as a family.

All of this can be possible with the right family therapy leader.

Who Leads Family Therapy?

If you are considering obtaining family therapy, there are a few guidelines you can follow. The best therapist is one who is licensed and certified in marriage and family counseling. They typically have a Master’s degree or higher in this field of study.

On top of the right education, marriage and family therapists have many years of experience, both supervised and unsupervised.

You will find that a good family therapist will be trained in several therapy techniques that can benefit groups. They will also be trained specifically in areas of grief, mental illnesses, addiction, and all marital conflicts.

They use their arsenal of tools based on the needs of the family.

What Happens in Family Therapy?

The first few sessions of family therapy will be focused on relationship building between your family and the therapist. You will also be able to describe the various issues your family has and based on those, your therapist will choose techniques to help you address those issues and make changes.

Communication training is a technique used to help families learn how to properly communicate. You are taught how to listen, ask questions and respond so that everyone is heard and respected.

A genogram may be used to identify past relationships that may have impacted the family. Some therapists may use a family photo album to reveal relationships and events that are important and influenced the family dynamic.

Other techniques can include the empty chair, role clarification, establishing family meetings, and basic cognitive behavioral approaches.

Your family may continue in therapy until you and your therapist feel you have progressed enough to successfully complete the program. You may continue to see your therapist for follow-up sessions to touch base and share progress even after completion.

What Are the Goals of Family Therapy?

The goals for your family may be different than goals for another family. Goals for therapy are set based on the issues and struggles specific to your family.

If someone in your family has a mental disorder that is negatively affecting the rest of the family, then the goal may be to teach your family how to cope and set boundaries with this individual.

If your family is going through a divorce, the goals will be to help you grieve, communicate and remain respectful to one another during this time. It may also include adjusting to new environments and even new family members in situations where parents remarry.

Your family may be one that is comprised of mixed cultures or vary from the “normal” family type society expects. In this case, goals would be set to help you cope with external factors such as how society reacts to your situation. You can learn how to prevent attitudes of others from affecting your relationships.

In addition to your regular therapeutic visits with your counselor, you will be given resources to assist you between sessions.

Your therapist can give you books, movies, and online resources to educate you on how families can have successful relationships. They can also help you get involved with local support groups so you can meet other families facing similar problems.

Your therapist can give you assignments to help you continue to grow and change as a family when you are not in therapy. He or she can teach all of you to live healthy independent lives, while also remaining a strong family unit, a team.

Reaching out for family therapy is one of the best decisions you and your family can make. It shows you have the commitment to making things better. It shows your family can be successful.