Family Therapy: How Important Is It?

Family therapy

We all begin our lives with a family, whether they are blood relatives, adopted parents, a close-knit neighbourhood, or a foster family. For better or worse, our family influences who we are and who we become. We learn our vocabulary, habits, customs, and rituals, as well as how to view and observe our surroundings. We are more likely to understand how to maintain good relationships if we are born into a healthy family with healthy relationships. Also, we may struggle to connect with others if we are born into a dysfunctional family that struggles to connect. 

Family therapy, also known as family counseling, is a type of treatment that is intended to address specific issues affecting a family’s health and functioning. It can be used to help a family get through a difficult time or a major transition or to help family members with mental or behavioral health issues. 

As a result, this is important to remember that the term “family” in family therapy doesn’t always mean blood-related members. And it could be anyone playing a long-term and supportive role. 

Types Of Family Therapy

1. Bowenian- In this type, the family members are not involved in the treatment. It basically revolves around two broad concepts namely, catharsis, learning how to cope well with the family and being less emotionally reactive. 

2. Structural- In this case, the focus of the therapist is to work with the adjustment and strengthening of the family with regard to setting boundaries. Here the therapist actively joins the family to understand and observe. 

3. Systematic- Here, the therapist does not actively take part in the family rather the therapist is a distant being. The focus is on understanding the meaning behind family members’ behavior. 

4. Strategic- The role of the therapist is directive here and the therapist takes more power thus making this form of family therapy much briefer and directive in comparison to others.

Goal Of Family Therapy

In a nutshell, the goal of family therapy is to help the family members understand their own ineffective patterns and to help the family deal with any emotional, cognitive, or behavioral issues that separate them. 

The family therapist work towards – 

1. Understanding and managing family problems 

2. Creating a healthy environment 

Here are a few instances where the family therapist helps the members of the family.

A. If any family member is suffering from a chronic mental health illness like schizophrenia or psychotic episodes. 

B. Issues related issues like having grandfathers around

C. Members deviating from the socially adhered social norms for instance an unmarried mother, transgenders or LGBTQI+ 

D. When members come from mixed cultural backgrounds 

E. Issues with a blended family or living with an extended family. 

When a family experiences a stressor that may strain family relationships, such as economic difficulties, divorce, or the death of a loved one, they can benefit from therapy. Furthermore, it can be effective in treating mental health issues that affect the entire family, such as depression, substance abuse, chronic illness, and food issues, as well as everyday concerns in children and adolescents, such as communication problems, interpersonal conflict, or behavioral problems. 

The goal of family counseling is to encourage understanding and collaboration among family members in order to resolve the issues of one or more individuals. For example, if a child is having social and academic problems, rather than evaluating the child’s behavior alone, therapy will focus on the family dynamics that may contribute to the child’s acting out. As the family identifies the root of the problem, they can learn to provide for the child and other family members while also working to minimize or change the factors that contribute to the child’s undesirable behavior.

Let’s understand Family therapy with an example 

There is a family that consists of four members, a father, a mother, an adult son, and a teenage daughter. The adult son is diagnosed with depression. The family is unable to understand depression and, additionally, how to offer support. However, the parents are concerned and worried about the son’s overall well being but there are arguments that lead to making the son frustrated and angry, making him additionally more helpless. Currently, the situation is such that communication is decreasing day by day. Members of the family have started avoiding each other and distancing themselves. 

Under such circumstances, the family therapist helps with 

1. Facing family problems and coping techniques, as well as how they have handled certain situations.

2. Unlearning ineffective coping mechanisms and learning healthy ones 

3. Understanding the role of family when a family member is depressed 

4. Setting up both individual and family goals and determining how those goals can be achieved 

Benefits Of Family Therapy 

Family therapy is considered a holistic approach to treating problems within a family.

1. A deeper and healthier relationship with the family. 

2. Healthy boundaries between the family and family dynamics 

3. Improved communication 

4. Empathy 

5. Fewer conflicts 

6. Better anger management skills 

7. Better problem solving 

Certain specific benefits include 

1. After the crisis, bring the family together. 

2. Inculcating honesty between the members 

3. A better and more supportive family environment 

4. Trust between the members of the family.

5. Identification of the sources of stress and tension and thereby reducing them.

6. Fostering forgiveness among the members. 

7. Resolution of conflicts 

8. Building the relationship among the members who have been isolated. 

To sum up, family therapy helps in building the skills that are necessary for healthier functioning in the family which include communication, resolution of conflicts, and problem-solving. Working on these skills also helps with addressing and overcoming family problems. 

Techniques

Miracle questioning- It may be used with individuals, couples, or family members and helps them understand and explore the future they want. A lot of times, struggles seem too difficult because we feel directionless and don’t know our own goals. It is a good way to make a client explore their own desires. For instance- imagine a miracle happened tonight while you were sleeping. What are some of the things you’ll notice when you wake up tomorrow that indicate your life has suddenly improved? 

Coloured candy goes around- To participate in this activity with your family, you will need a package of Skittles, M&Ms, or another colorful candy. Distribute seven pieces of candy to each family member and instruct them to sort them by colour (while not eating it yet!). Next, have a family member choose a colour and count how many they have. Instruct them to give the same number of responses to the following colour-based prompts for however many candies they have- Green – descriptive words for your family; Purple represents ways your family has fun; things you’d like to improve about your family are in orange; things you’re concerned about are in red, similarly yellow represents your favorite family memories. 

Family Gift- To give this exercise a try, gather a variety of art supplies and a gift bag. And of course, explain to the family that they are going to create a gift from the materials provided. This gift will be a gift for the whole family, that everyone in the family wants. Also, they must decide together on this gift and how it can be used within their family. They have 30 minutes to decide on this gift and craft it.

Once they have created the gift, they must place it in the gift bag. This exercise, when used in the context of family therapy, allows the therapist to get insight into the inner workings of the family and how they make decisions and execute tasks as a unit.

Hence, it can be noted that family therapy is an important way to understand the family dynamics, and the issues, and how to resolve them better and get to the cause of it so that each member has a fair chance to heal.

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