If you were asked to define your family, you may automatically think of the parent or parents who raised you. However, a family does not necessarily mean blood relations.
To most therapists, family means someone who has been in your life for an extended period and has had an impact on your development, either positive or negative.
Family can be close friends, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even neighbors. They may be defined as family structures.
The Benefits of Family Therapy for Different Family Structures
Family structures include your nuclear family which typically refers to the traditional style of two parents raising their biological children. Nuclear families are decreasing in number today and other family structures are taking precedence.
There are now many single-parent family structures, extended family, stepfamily, grandparent family and childless families. Each structure has both strengths and weaknesses.
Implementing family therapy can benefit each type of family. Several of these benefits are discussed below.
1. Therapists Have Specialized Training
Just as computer technicians have specific skills to repair your computer, or handymen have unique skills to repair a home project, your family therapist also has specialized relational skills training. These skills have been obtained through both education and life experiences.
Therapists carry these tools with them and use them to help you and your family improve your relationship.
2. Multiple Techniques Available
Therapists determine which tools to use in counseling based on the needs of your family. Tools can help your family reach goals and strengthen positive aspects that already exist within your family.
Common theories used by therapists include cognitive behavioral therapy. Many people refer to this as talk therapy, in which the therapist acts as a guide and facilitator in helping your family address problems. Structural and strategic therapeutic tools are often used to strengthen families.
Transgenerational therapy allows the therapist to examine the family members across many generations, while narrative therapy allows them to focus more on each individual family member’s personal stories.
Communication therapy can help your family learn appropriate skills for interacting in a positive way, even when you may be feeling angry or hurt. Therapists can also teach your family through psychoeducation. Learning coping skills is one of the best techniques available in family therapy.
3. Improves Coping Skills as a Family
All families encounter situations in life that can be devastating. Some go through a divorce, others lose someone they love and some even experience the negative effects of an addicted family member.
Coping skills include stress management, time management, conflict resolution, anger management, and goal setting.
When you are equipped with coping skills you are prepared to overcome obstacles. Coping skills can also lead to higher self-esteem.
4. Builds Self-Esteem Within a Family
The self-esteem of each family member is important to the overall success of your family’s relationship. Self-esteem refers to the confidence you feel. It also refers to feeling valued and worthy of being respected as an important member of the family.
Family therapists can help your family encourage high self-esteem in each member. This starts with learning how to recognize low self-esteem. Low self-esteem can lead to other mental health problems; therefore, it is important to help family members cope as soon as possible.
5. Get to Know Each Other
Yes, you know your family members. How well do you really know them? You may know their favorite color or food. You may know whether they like their job or friends at school. Can you answer the deeper questions about your family members?
Have any of your family members been bullied, or have they been a bully? Have they been abused in their past? What are their career dreams? What type of person are they attracted to physically? Are they in love? What is on their bucket list? What are their spiritual beliefs?
In therapy, each family member can have the opportunity to address some of these questions, without judgment.
The more you know about each other, the closer you will become as a family. The more you truly understand your family members, on a deeper level, the stronger your relationship.
6. Define Family Roles
Roles among family members can easily become blurred. There are times when children take on more of a parent role. Other times, there is no parent role model, and everyone acts more as friends within the family.
Successful families function best when each person has a defined role, with defined duties and they stick to those guidelines. Parents need to be parents, setting the tone for how the family will operate. Parents need to acquire appropriate and healthy behaviors through the right parenting styles. All of which can be learned from a family therapist.
Discipline, rewards, communication, expectations, and consequences are a few of the issues that can be addressed with the help of family therapy.
Boundaries are a big part of family role assignments. Each family member needs to know healthy boundaries for themselves and for each other. You need to respect these boundaries because violating them can lead to further mental health damage.
It is more normal than you think to need help improving family interactions. There are no perfect families. In fact, everyone could benefit from some form of family therapy.
Communication skills are likely the biggest issue among family members. Communication is complicated and involves both talking and listening in a way that is positive for everyone involved. With the right type of communication skills, your family can feel success.
Communication involves respectful listening, giving feedback to show you are listening and responding in a healthy manner. Screaming and being aggressive physically or verbally is not necessary to get what you want. Effective communication can help you resolve issues quickly and with a lot less drama.
All will seem right in the world when your family is stable, happy, and healthy. But the stresses of modern life, a family crisis, and other situations may temporarily disrupt the stability of your family.
If you feel your family needs help working through an issue, you may want to consider the benefits of family therapy.
Family therapy can help you get the healthy family life you deserve, no matter how you define “family”.