Family therapy centers on the importance of our relationships as a crucial part of an individual’s psychological health. It takes into account the individuals, the environments, and the relational dynamics to nurture change, development and emotional well-being. Family therapy is based on the belief that the family is a unique social system with its own form of communication, rules and expectations that influence the relational patterns. These patterns are determined by several factors, including the parents’ beliefs and values, the personalities of all family members, and the influence of the extended family and friends.
The involvement of families directly in the therapy session, regardless of the origin of the problem, and regardless of whether the identified problem is “individual” or “family,” supports solutions to benefit the individual and the family. This is the central belief for all approaches to family therapy. This allows the family therapist to access the strengths, wisdom, and support of the greater family system. It also allows for addressing the possibility that some of the reasons for the problems may be the result of a greater problem in the family system. Regardless of the situation, any change in one member of the family affects both the family structure and each member individually. Many times family members struggle to maintain constructive communication during times of hurt, frustration, or loss of trust.
Family therapy allows for assistance from a trained professional with the following:
- How to navigate difficult conversations between people who love each other
- Teaches family members about what supports a family well and strategies to support each person’s well-being
- How to strengthen family relationship and work on problems together
- How to identify ways to support each other
- How to find long-term solutions to problems
- How to navigate the repair of trust and hurts
- Teaches options for negotiating differences and resolving conflicts
- Teaches self-supportive and family-supportive coping
- How to create understanding and identify needs that are unmet
Some may define family narrowly, as legal parents and children, although many experienced family therapists do not. Family is more broadly defined to include the primary social supports and long-term relationships regardless of legal status or blood.
There are a variety of models or approaches to family therapy. Although I have trained in a variety of family therapy models, I do not adhere to one single approach. I have found tailoring my approach to working with families based on the personalities and difficulties at hand is most beneficial.