What is Family Therapy?

Family therapy is a type of psychotherapy or counseling that involves all members of a nuclear family or stepfamily and, in some cases, members of the extended family (e.g., grandparents). A therapist conducts multiple sessions to help families deal with important issues that may interfere with the functioning of the family and the home environment.

Purpose

The goal of family therapy is to help family members improve communication, solve family problems, understand and handle special family situations (for example, death, serious physical or mental illness, or child and adolescent issues), and create a better functioning home environment. For families with one member who has a serious physical or mental illness, family therapy can educate families about the illness and work out problems associated with care of the family member. For children and adolescents, family therapy most often is used when the child or adolescent has a personality, anxietyis formed or begins having difficulties adjusting to the new family life. Families with members from a mixture of racial, cultural, and religious backgrounds, as well as families made up of same-sex couples who are raising children, may also benefit from family therapy.

Description

Family therapy involves multiple therapy sessions, usually lasting at least one hour each, conducted at regular intervals (for example, once weekly) for several months. Typically, family therapy is initiated to address a specific problem, such as an adolescent with a psychological disorder or adjustment to a death in the family. However, frequently, therapy sessions reveal additional problems in the family, such as communication issues. In a therapy session, therapists seek to analyze the process of family interaction and communication as a whole and do not take sides with specific family members.

Family therapy is based on family systems theory, in which the family is viewed as a living organism rather than just the sum of its individual members. Family therapy uses systems theory to evaluate family members in terms of their position or role within the system as a whole. Problems are treated by changing the way the system works rather than trying to fix a specific member.

Treatment Approach
Types of Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral (CBT)

Culturally Sensitive

Emotionally Focused

Relational

Strength-Based

Trauma Focused