Image by Teemu Paananen

FAMILY THERAPY

1. What is Family Therapy

 

Family therapy works to help families resolve their issues. Counsellors work with parents and children in the family during these family counselling sessions to help them understand their children, speak about their feelings and build relationships—most importantly, by resolving problems amicably.

 

2. Types of Family Therapy

 

There are different approaches to family counselling and each can address specific issues in a family dynamic. Depending on the types of problems encountered, therapists can draw from multiple different therapy modalities to find an approach that the family unit responds best to.

Functional Family Therapy

Functional Family Therapy is an intensive short-term treatment that is typically used for families with adolescents who are experiencing high-risk behavioural problems such as violence, substance abuse, or other delinquent behaviours. It seeks to address these issues by first building trust and respect within the family unit, followed by skills that the family can use to relate more effectively with each other.

 

Narrative Family Therapy

Narrative Therapy on its own aims to separate an individual from the problem by allowing them to externalise the issues rather than internalise them. Narrative Family Therapy uses this concept to encourage family members to tell their own stories so the others can understand who they are and how their experiences have shaped them. 

 

When such perspectives are shared during family counselling sessions, other family members can view problems more objectively and understand motivations and fears of other members.

Psychoeducation

Mental health awareness has only recently become mainstream and many people may not yet have a grasp on how mental health conditions can affect a family member. This can result in either feelings of helplessness or dismissal of a family member’s condition resulting in emotional conflicts.

 

Psychoeducation aims to tackle this by educating family members on mental health conditions, medications, treatment options, and self-help approaches during psychological counselling sessions. By gaining this knowledge, a family unit can work closer together and function as a support system.

 

Supportive Family Therapy

Supportive Family Therapy is utilised to identify problematic family dynamics through creating a safe judgement-free forum where family members can share their feelings and insecurities. By openly sharing, there is ample opportunity for family members to support each other as well as for the therapist to offer practical advice and communication techniques.


 

3. Family Therapy Techniques

 

Techniques utilised by a therapist when helping a family through counselling will vary based on their needs. A combination of techniques can also be used to address different problems or approach issues through different ways. 

 

Behavioural Techniques

Psychoeducation, psychotherapy, and skills-training can work in tandem with behavioural techniques to help family members address specific issues. Education provides a strong knowledge base which can translate into greater effectiveness for certain communication, coping, and conflict resolution skills.

 

Psychodynamic Techniques

Psychodynamic techniques are about identifying how different members of a family view potential issues and react to them. Therapists are then able to share new insights with the family and explore new ways of dealing with current or future problems during counselling sessions.

 

Structural Techniques

Sometimes boundaries and power dynamics can be at the root of certain issues. Structural techniques help overhaul problematic such established patterns and create new boundaries and routines that can have a positive influence.

 

4. What to Consider Before Starting Family Therapy

 

Family therapy might explore uncomfortable topics and dig into the roots of emotional conflicts in a group dynamic. As such, it can be a difficult and sometimes upsetting journey for many families. As past conflicts or unhealthy behaviour patterns are brought up, families might feel like the dynamics are worsening compared to the start of family therapy.

It’s essential for family members to keep in mind that family therapists are highly-trained professionals who are there to help. Working through conflicts, opening old wounds, and experiencing intense emotions are all part of the process and they have to trust both the professional and the time-tested therapy methods used to fix problematic behaviours and ultimately strengthen the family unit.

5. Benefits of Family Therapy

 

Family counselling can help both the family unit as a group and individuals within the family who might need help. It strengthens bonds between family members and aims to ensure that there is mutual respect, trust, and understanding between everyone.

 

Communication

Good communication is the bedrock of any stable relationship and family connections are no exception. By learning how to share their thoughts, needs, fears, and desires in a 

non-confrontational positive manner, family members are able to work together to resolve conflicts in non-damaging ways.

 

Support

Family counselling is also able to foster better relationships and impart skills that allow family members to support each other more positively. If an individual is having difficulty, other family members are then more able to pitch in and help out.

 

Psychoeducation

Family therapy is also called upon when one member of the family is having mental health issues. By educating them on mental health conditions and the very real difficulties a particular family member may be having, family therapy can encourage others to rally around a family member to help alleviate their condition.