What is Family Therapy?

By Laney Cline King

Family therapy is a form of psychotherapy that seeks to reduce distress and conflict by improving the systems of interactions between family members. While family therapists often seek to have all family members (affected by the problem) in the room, that is not always possible or necessary.

What distinguishes family therapy from individual counseling is its perspective or framework, not how many people are present at the therapy session.

This type of counseling views problems as patterns or systems that need adjusting, as opposed to viewing problems as residing in the person, which is why family therapy is often referred to as a “strengths based treatment.”

Family Therapy

“Family” is defined by the modern family therapist as 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. Family relationships are viewed as important for good mental health, regardless of whether all family members are participating in the therapy.

It is an ideal counseling method for helping family members adjust to an immediate family member struggling with an addiction, medical issue or mental health diagnosis. It is also recommended for improving communication and reducing conflict.

reasons for seeking family therapy include:
• When a child is having a problem such as with school, substance abuse, or disordered eating
• A major trauma or change that impacts the entire family (i.e. relocation to a new house, natural disaster, incarceration of a family member)
• Unexpected or traumatic loss of a family member
• Adjustment to a new family member in the home (i.e. birth of a sibling, adoption, foster children, a grandparent entering the home)
• Domestic violence
• Divorce
• Parent Conflict

Types of Family Therapy:
Family therapy is a very specialized skill set, and one should seek a therapist who has received both training and credentials qualifying them to perform this type of counseling. All MFT or Marriage Family Therapists are required to do some family counseling as part of their training. Many LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Workers) are trained in family counseling, but not all. Use the following overview as a guide for selecting the type of family counseling right for you.

Bowenian Model of Family Therapy.
Structural (Salvador Minuchin) – Focuses on reordering the family system according to how the roles and power are distributed among family members. Issues of hierarchy are addressed, making sure the parents (or adult caretakers in the home) are in control and work as a team in setting appropriate boundaries for children.

The therapist strengthens adult and sibling relationships by “joining” with the family to help make sure no one person or dad (two people) in the family system have too much power. “Joining” the family may even involve having one or more family members step behind a one-way mirror so that the therapist can point out patterns of interactions amongst other family members. Click here for an in depth description of Bowenian Family Therapy.

Systemic – This model focuses on the meaning behind family member’s behaviors and proposes that family communications are happening on an unconscious level. The therapist takes a neutral and distant approach, yet confronts the family with rituals and behaviors that allow family members to attribute different insight and understanding as to why a problem is occurring. Power is not seen as belonging to any one person in the family, but rather to the unconscious “game” that family members participate in to keep a problem going.

Strategic – This is a direct and brief family therapy approach, suited to those who want results in a short period of time. In this direct approach, the family therapist prescribes homework meant to change they way family members interact with the person identified as having the “problem” or “symptom”. Hierarchies, coalitions and communication systems are assessed, similar to that in the other family counseling approaches.

Positive Outcomes of Family Therapy

Family treatment can be useful on numerous dimensions. A decent course of family treatment makes a difference:

• Develops and keeps up sound limits

• Fosters attachment and correspondence among relatives

• Promotes critical thinking through comprehension of family examples and elements

• Builds compassion and comprehension.

• Reduces family strife

Regularly, organizations that train family specialists will offer family treatment at a decreased rate when given by an assistant in preparing. This course is particularly helpful when searching out a particular kind of family treatment since establishments are regularly specific and specialists in the field regulate assistants. It merits hunting down any Family Therapy Institutes or preparing programs in your general vicinity or directing a web scan for offices that give a “sliding scale” for family treatment administrations.

Marriage and Family Therapy


Family treatment is a sort of psychotherapy that includes all individuals from a family unit or stepfamily and, now and again, individuals from the more distant family (e.g., grandparents). An advisor or group of specialists leads various sessions to enable families to manage essential issues that may meddle with the working of the family and the home condition.

Objective of family treatment is to help relatives improve correspondence, take care of family issues, comprehend and handle unique family circumstances (for instance, passing, genuine physical or psychological maladjustment, or youngster and youthful issues), and make a superior working home condition. For families with one part who has a genuine physical or psychological instability, family treatment can instruct families about the sickness and work out issues related with consideration of the relative.

For kids and teenagers, family treatment frequently is utilized when the tyke or juvenile has an identity, uneasiness , or state of mind issue that impedes their family and social working, and when a stepfamily is framed or starts experiencing issues changing in accordance with the new family life. Families with individuals from a blend of racial, social, and religious foundations, just as families made up of same-sex couples who are bringing up kids, may likewise profit by family treatment


Notwithstanding, much of the time, treatment sessions uncover extra issues in the family, for example, correspondence issues. In a treatment session, advisors look to break down the procedure of family connection and correspondence all in all and don’t favor one side with explicit relatives. Advisors who fill in as a group can demonstrate new practices for the family through their communications with one another amid a session.

Family treatment depends on family frameworks hypothesis, in which the family is seen as a living life form instead of simply the entirety of its individual individuals. Family treatment utilizes frameworks hypothesis to assess relatives as far as their position or job inside the framework in general. Issues are treated by changing the manner in which the framework works as opposed to attempting to fix a particular part. Family frameworks hypothesis depends on a few noteworthy ideas. I


Distinguished patient (IP) is the relative with the manifestation that has brought the family into treatment. Youngsters and teenagers are often the IP in family treatment. The idea of the IP is utilized by family advisors to shield the family from scapegoating the IP or utilizing the person in question as a method for maintaining a strategic distance from issues in whatever remains of the framework.


Homeostasis implies that the family framework looks to keep up its standard association and working after some time, and it will in general oppose change. The family advisor can utilize the idea of homeostasis to clarify why a specific family manifestation has surfaced at a given time, why a particular part has turned into the IP, and what is probably going to happen when the family starts to change.


The more distant family field incorporates the close family and the system of grandparents and different relatives of the family. This idea is utilized to clarify the intergenerational transmission of frames of mind, issues, practices, and different issues. Youngsters and teenagers frequently advantage from family treatment that incorporates the more distant family.

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