Family is important, whether it’s composed of blood relatives, a foster family, or adoptive parents and siblings. Your family can impact every aspect of your life from the moment you are born until you breathe your last.
Your family influences who you are, who you become, and how you view and interact with the world around us, for better or for worse. Because family relationships are so important to your overall life and well-being, it’s important to have positive family relationships and dynamics.
This is where family therapy comes in. It offers families a way to develop and maintain a functional and healthy family. In this article, we’re sharing the basics of family therapy, specifically the different types and techniques used as well as the numerous benefits it provides.
Family Therapy: What Is It?
Family therapy, also known as family counseling, is a type of psychotherapy or psychological counseling focused on understanding relationships and individuals within their larger family and environmental systems. It focuses on helping family members to boost communication and resolve conflicts and distress, ultimately improving family dynamics and relationships.
In general, family therapy is provided by a licensed therapist, psychologist, or clinical social worker in therapy centers like Insight Northwest Counseling In Bend Oregon. Typically, family therapies are short-term and may include all family members or just those who are willing or able to participate. The specific treatment plan for your family will depend on the current situation and issues your family experience.
8 Types And Techniques Of Family Therapy
Experts use different types and counseling techniques to resolve family issues. While some therapists may use a specific approach, most choose to combine techniques to ensure the best results.
Below, we’re taking a closer look at the different approaches most commonly used in family therapy.
- Systemic Family Therapy
Systemic family therapy is one of the most effective approaches to family counseling. It provides an opportunity for family members to come together to address difficult issues they’re facing. This type of therapy focuses on how each relationship has been affected by numerous past and present influences.
In addition, systemic family therapy also focuses on belief systems. It also attempts to learn and determine how each member’s actions influence other members and affect the family unit as a whole.
This type of therapy aims to understand family processes, how members influence people, and how they change over time to enhance family interactions and relationships.
- Structural Family Therapy
Structural family therapy was developed in the 1960s by Salvador Minuchin. This focuses on managing problems that may arise because of family structures. Its primary goal is to achieve a balanced and functioning family hierarchy with proper boundaries between members. Furthermore, it is based on the idea that behavioral and emotional issues in children are usually connected to dysfunctional family structures.
As its name implies, it focuses more on structure than specific behaviors that may be causing issues within the family. It also helps understand the different subsystems and boundaries within the family, helping each family member interact more productively.
- Strategic Family Therapy
This type of therapy is more direct and shorter than other approaches. Instead of having an in-depth analysis of potential issues, this type of therapy focuses on strategies and actions to help the family work better. A therapist usually assigns homework meant to change how family members interact by evaluating and adjusting how the family connects and makes a decision.
With strategic family therapy, the therapist may also ignite debates during sessions to help the family learn and understand their issues and start to solve the problem as a unity. Also, with strategic family therapy sessions, the therapist holds the power, allowing other family members who may not hold enough power to communicate and interact more effectively.
- Narrative Family Therapy
As its name implies, narrative family therapy focuses more on telling a story. This type of therapy assumes that all people are storytellers, each having their narratives on how things are from their perspective.
With narrative family therapy, issues that the family may be dealing with are communicated and processed in a way that allows each family member to tell their story and makes it easier to discuss. It aims to separate an individual from the issue, helping them rely on their skills to view issues objectively instead of the narrative they’ve built up.
Narrative family therapy assumes that each person can rewrite their story. It teaches them to make room for other members’ stories and frame the issues within the larger unit context to objectify their issues.
Psychoeducation is centered on educating family members about mental health conditions. By learning more about common health conditions that a family member may experience, therapists can equip a family with tools to mitigate potential symptoms, control behaviors, master self-help approaches, and ultimately have a better functioning family unit.
In addition, family members are better prepared to handle their loved one who suffers from mental illness and function as a solid, cohesive support system. Psychoeducation sessions also help provide a safe place for discussion, allowing for an open exchange of information amongst family members.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
Traditionally, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psycho-social treatment that helps reduce symptoms of mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression. However, it can also be used as family therapy, attempting to change the ways family members behave or think to reduce or eliminate the problem.
This type of therapy assumes that each family member’s emotions, behaviors, and thoughts cyclically impact each other, resulting in negative core beliefs. Thus, a therapist can use CBT to help family members identify individual patterns and connect how these patterns impact their treatment with other family members. After becoming aware of the unhealthy interactions and patterns, the therapy then leans on how to change these patterns and behaviors and create healthier ones. The therapist may assign each member tasks to complete or use specific behavioral programs.
- Transgenerational Family Therapy
Transgenerational family therapy involves exploring the different generations of families, interactions between multiple generations, past histories, and how they relate to one another. In short, it focuses more on generational differences–whether how couples of different generations behave or how kids react differently from their parents.
By understanding the difference, a therapist can better understand current problems and use them to predict future issues. For instance, a therapist can gain insights into how a family has responded to past issues in a certain way, allowing them to forecast future dysfunction.
- Bowenian Family Therapy
Developed by psychiatrist Murray Bowen, Bowenian family therapy assumes that patterns may persist in families across generations and that problematic behaviors can be passed down, creating similar issues and problems.
This therapy aims to help nurture healthy communication between members, breaking harmful and toxic patterns and ultimately developing healthy autonomy and differentiation among each individual to reframe familial issues caused by multigenerational patterns and behaviors that have been passed down.
4 Benefits Of Family Therapy
Whether your family is facing significant issues or seems contented and happy, family therapy offers several benefits.
- Better Communication
Most people undervalue the importance of communication in relationships, even more so with family relationships since it involves several members. After all, misunderstandings can easily occur among larger groups. Furthermore, some people may not share their feelings openly, or a family member may be heavily influenced by outside peers, making communication difficult. Family therapy can act as a medium to help family members to speak freely and be understood more productively.
- Resolving Family Conflicts
At some point, families face problems and conflicts. Whether it’s recent or has been going on for years, family therapy can provide a resolution for these problems. A therapist can help family members identify long-standing issues and address the roots of the problem via education and counseling strategies.
- Provide Support During Significant Life Transitions
Life transitions–either positive or negative–can have a significant impact on family members. Things like death, relocation, or divorce can cause turmoil in family dynamics. During these stressful moments, family therapy can support family members struggling with their emotions, thinking, and behavior, helping them adjust to the new circumstances.
- Stronger Family Bonds
Once members become more aware of their interaction and behavioral patterns and learn how to overcome or change them for the better, it’s much easier for positive relationships to develop. Family members understand one another and can communicate more effectively.
And with a better relationship, a stronger bond is forged. With stronger bonds, a family can withstand any conflict or issues that may arise, allowing them to stay happy and contented, which is the ultimate goal of family therapy.
Family therapy is an effective way for you and your family to learn and understand how to maintain healthy relationships with one another, communicate effectively and work cooperatively to resolve family issues and problems that may arise.
If you’re thinking about having therapy with your family, we hope that this article has provided the necessary information you need.
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