Sadock, B. J., Sadock, V. A. & Ruiz, P. (2009). Kaplan & Sadock’s Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 2. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Family therapy is used to help families improve their communication skills and work through their issues. This therapy approach is usually performed by a family counselor, family psychologist, clinical social worker or a marriage and family therapist. It is considered a short-term or brief treatment for adjustment issues, bereavement, personality disorders, depression, anxiety, divorce, blended families, bullying or difficulties at school, parent-child conflicts, etc. Treatment is based on your family’s situation. It is important to notes that your family therapist will want to involve all of your family members in the treatment process.
Family therapists work from a systemic framework. In other words, family therapists believe that issues within the family affect the entire family not just the individual who manifests the symptoms. Your family therapist, therefore, will want to explore each issue one at time within a family context. Therapy may last anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months, depending on the situation and the level of dysfunction. During family therapy, you and your family members are taught how to reconnect as a family and resolve conflicts.
What Does Family Therapy Involve?
Family therapy can help restore your relationship with your family and friends. During therapy you learn how to effectively communicate with those closest to you. You also learn how to address your concerns in a positive and healthy way. For instance, if you no longer feel connected to your spouse, your therapist offers tips and suggestions on how to reconnect with him/her.
Family therapists also help you work through a variety of issues such as: marital issues, parent/child issues, financial problems, substance abuse/addictions, eating disorders, etc. Family therapy is especially beneficial for situations that cause dysfunction, stress, resentment and/or conflict within the family. This therapy approach not only helps your family effectively communicate with each other, it also strengthens the bond between you so that you can successfully resolve any future issues that arise.
What Happens During Family Therapy?
During therapy, your therapist may originally ask to see you and your family together. Once he/she has spent a few sessions with you as a family, he/she may request to counsel you and your family members individually for a few sessions. Once your therapist feels that you and your family members are ready to come back together, he/she may request to see you together as a family again. During the first couple of “family” sessions, your therapist observes how you and your family interact with each other during stressful or challenging times.
During the individual sessions, you and your therapist work on any issues that appear to contribute to dysfunction within the family. Your therapist also helps you work through any hidden or deep-seated issues (unresolved childhood, parent-child, self-esteem and/or relationship issues).
Once you have successfully worked through your individual issues, then your therapist may bring you back together as a family to work on more complicated issues within the family. It is during this time that you and your family work on your communication and problem-resolution skills. This a very important time in family therapy because your therapist teaches you and your family how to support one another and address your concerns, issues, wants and needs in a productive way.
Goldenberg, H. & Goldenberg, I. (2007). Family therapy: An overview. Belmont, CA: Brooks Cole.