Families are intricate systems with a history and culture often silently influencing everything said and done, or not. These patterns of living are so much a part of us that we don’t see their guiding hands directing our daily choices.
Combining families and creating our own new culture often brings a huge source of stress in our lives when not addressed. Sometimes individual therapy is needed. Other times doing family therapy to help improve communication is necessary. Conflict for couples around parenting issues can also be a source of distress in the relationship.
We all start this life with a family, whether that family is composed of blood relatives, adopted parents, a close-knit neighborhood, or a foster family. This family that we acquire when we are born influences every aspect of our lives, from our first moments to our last.
Our family affects who we are and who we become, for better and for worse. We learn our vocabulary, our habits, our customs and rituals, and how to view and observe the world around us.
We also learn how to love and how to interact with others from these first important relationships.
If we are born into a healthy family with healthy relationships, we are likely to learn how to maintain healthy relationships. If we are born into a dysfunctional family that struggles to connect, we may also struggle to connect with others.
While it is certainly unlucky to be born into the second kind of family, it’s not an unchangeable situation. Nearly all families deal with some sort of dysfunction at one time or another, yet most families retain or regain a sense of wholeness and happiness.
Family therapy offers families a way to do this—a way to develop or maintain a healthy, functional family.
What is Family Therapy / Family Counseling?
Family therapy or family counseling is a form of treatment that is designed to address specific issues affecting the health and functioning of a family. It can be used to help a family through a difficult period, a major transition, or mental or behavioral health problems in family members.
Family therapy views individuals’ problems in the context of the larger unit: the family. The assumption of this type of therapy is that problems cannot be successfully addressed or solved without understanding the dynamics of the group.
The way the family operates influences how the client’s problems formed and how they are encouraged or enabled by other members of their family.
Behavioral or emotional problems in children are common reasons to visit a family therapist. A child’s problems do not exist in a vacuum; they exist, and will likely need to be addressed, within the context of the family.
It should be noted that in family therapy or counseling, the term “family” does not necessarily mean blood relatives. In this context, “family” is anyone who plays a long-term supportive role in one’s life, which may not mean blood relations or family members in the same household.
What are the Benefits of Family Therapy?
This more holistic approach to treating problems within a family has proven to be extremely effective in many cases. In family therapy, families can work on their problems with the guidance of a mental health professional in a safe and controlled environment.
The benefits of family therapy include:
- A better understanding of healthy boundaries and family patterns and dynamics;
- Enhanced communication;
- Improved problem solving;
- Deeper empathy;
- Reduced conflict and better anger management skills.
More specifically, family therapy can improve family relationships through:
- Bringing the family together after a crisis;
- Creating honesty between family members;
- Instilling trust in family members;
- Developing a supportive family environment;
- Reducing sources of tension and stress within the family;
- Helping family members forgive each other;
- Conflict resolution for family members;
- Bringing back family members who have been isolated.
Family therapy enhances the skills required for healthy family functioning, including communication, conflict resolution, and problem-solving. Improving these skills also increases the potential for success in overcoming and addressing family problems.
In family therapy, the focus is on providing all family members with the tools they need to facilitate healing.