People often look to their family as their primary means of support, safety, and love. However, family structures can be complex, creating tight bonds and profound problems. Even the healthiest family dynamic can develop issues that produce far-reaching consequences.
When it becomes difficult for a family to achieve reasonable emotional harmony, family therapy may be the solution. People sometimes forget how to communicate their thoughts and feelings or don’t know how to do so effectively. It’s not uncommon for people to struggle to understand other people’s perspectives while navigating their personal issues and life circumstances.
Family therapy can help loved ones connect, improve their bonds, and create a healthy, positive home environment.
In This Article
What Is Family Therapy?
Family therapy is a level of psychotherapy that addresses family members’ needs instead of an individual’s problems. The purpose of the therapy is to bring families together to uncover and address their issues. Most family therapy models focus on the verbal and nonverbal communication styles of a family and individual issues that negatively impact the family unit.
Experienced mental health professionals, like family therapists, licensed clinical social workers, and licensed professional counselors, lead family therapy sessions. Their extensive training, education, and credentials provide these professionals with the tools necessary to help families resolve conflict and strengthen relationships.
In most cases, family therapy sessions are short-term and focus on creating solutions for the future instead of dealing primarily with the past. Some families may require long-term care. However, most people accomplish the goals they set with their family therapist in 12 sessions or fewer.
How Does Marriage and Family Therapy Work?
In a perfect world, families would have all their needs met and close-knit relationships with relatives. That’s not usually the case, though.
The reality for many people is that family is synonymous with anger, hurt, stress, misunderstanding, unmet needs, and disconnection. People often struggle to communicate with loved ones, leading to assumed expectations, skewed outlooks on life, and the inability to feel comfort and support from family.
Not every family needs family counseling, but it is beneficial for those who need help getting through tough times and life circumstances. For instance, blended families require an adjustment period as stepparents learn to parent non-biological children. Stepsiblings may not agree with changes to their household and daily routine.
Perhaps a couple has no children but feels disconnected from each other due to chronic illness or financial issues. Maybe family members are struggling with the loss of a child, parent, or sibling and don’t know how to cope with the grief healthily.
All of those situations could benefit from family therapy. Sessions generally are not one-size-fits-all, but a family therapist may create a course of treatment based on loose stages of family therapy:
- Initial Preparation Stage: During the initial phase of family therapy, the therapist will assess the family, define the issue, develop goals for the family, and formulate a treatment plan.
- Transition Stage: By this point, the tough work of family therapy begins. Family members will learn more about their issues, how they affect each person, and what they can do to do better.
- Termination Stage: A family will enter this stage when the mental health professional deems the family capable of handling their issues without a therapist’s guidance.
What Role Does the Family Therapist Play During Family Counseling?
A family therapist or counselor controls each session. They begin by building trust and establishing rapport with the family. Once everyone achieves a level of comfort and confidence in the mental health professional, the therapist will bring attention to conflicts and misunderstandings within the family and help each person understand the perspective of their loved ones as they work toward a long-term solution.
Despite the benefits of family therapy, sessions are often tense and challenging. It takes a skilled mediator to uncover and navigate their patients’ sensitive problems. Depending on the needs of their patients, a family therapist usually takes on many roles throughout the process, like:
- An educator
- An activator
- An interpreter
- A challenger
What Are the Benefits of Family Therapy?
Though many families who seek family therapy services don’t require years’ worth of sessions, it doesn’t mean they can fix their issues overnight. Family therapy takes time and effort on everyone’s behalf.
When people put in the work and accept the guidance of a skilled therapist, they can enjoy several long-term benefits. With family therapy, you and your loved ones could:
- Improve communication
- Resolve family issues
- Strengthen family relationships
- Develop healthy coping skills
- Build trust
Everyone can get something out of family counseling beyond the above benefits. The ultimate goal of this branch of psychotherapy is to help families develop fulfilling relationships with each other. A secure and dependable familial bond can give people the necessary foundation for their general well-being and future relationships.
Types of Family Therapy Approaches
Family therapy isn’t a narrow form of therapy with strict guidelines, tactics, and expectations. It involves several treatment approaches. Depending on a family’s problems, needs, and objectives for the future, a family counselor may use a specific modality, including those below:
- Strategic Family Therapy: This therapy approach is a theory that includes five distinct phases, including the social, problem, interactional, goal-setting, and task-setting stages.
- Supportive Family Therapy: Supportive therapy allows family members to express themselves through open conversations. They freely discuss their family’s issues and the effects they have on everyone.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: This treatment helps people overcome unhealthy thought processes that often lead to problematic behaviors and strained familial relationships.
- Solution-Focused Brief Therapy: Instead of focusing on the past, solution-focused therapy helps patients set goals for the future.
Family therapy comes in many forms, some of which are more suitable for addressing your family’s needs than others. However, experienced mental health professionals know how to apply the appropriate approaches that help clients and their loved ones learn more about each other and themselves.
Whether you want to improve relationships with relatives, cope with difficult life transitions, or overcome family problems, family counseling Perth can help.