Family therapy offers strategies and activities derived from cognitive therapy, interpersonal therapy, behavior therapy, and other forms of therapy. Unlike other forms of treatment, the strategies utilized depend on the particular issues of the patient or patients.
Emotional or behavioral issues in children are typical reasons to consult a family counselor or therapist. Children’s issues don’t exist and do not affect anything or anyone. They exist, and they require attention and support from the family. It should be remembered that with family therapy, ‘family’ doesn’t always mean blood relations. Family can be anyone who supports, cares, and loves another even if they are not family members or living in the same home.
Here are the most commonly used forms of family therapy:
- Structural. This type of therapy involves making adjustments and building strength within the family and ensuring that parents are managing the children and adults appropriately, including setting proper boundaries. Here, the family welcomes the therapist in their home to observe and know more about its members to improve their capacity to strengthen each other.
- Systemic. This model involves the emphasis of unconscious communications and the purpose and meanings of each family member’s behavior. The therapist in this type of treatment is impartial and detached, enabling all family members to delve deeper into the problems and challenges that they are confronted with.
- Bowenian. It is a type of family therapy most suitable for circumstances where family members are hesitant to include the rest of the members during treatment. The Bowenian therapy was developed from two main principles – triangulation, or the tendency to release one’s stress and anxiety by venting to another individual, and differentiation, or the process of learning to be less mentally and emotionally responsive to family relationships.
- Strategic. A more brief type of therapy, strategic family therapy, is also more direct than the other types. The therapist delegates assignments to each family member for the purpose of changing the way the family interacts. He then evaluates the way the family members communicate and discusses their decisions. He also takes the position of authority in this form of therapy, which enables other members that do not typically hold the authority to communicate more efficiently.
For the therapist to effectively treat various family issues, he must:
- Make proper observations of how individuals interact.
- Assess and find solutions for relationship issues.
- Make a diagnosis and treatment for mental illnesses within the family.
- Help people in their journey towards transition, such as in death or divorce.
- Efficiently help substitute an abnormal behavior into a healthy one.
For the family therapist to possess these skills and fulfill his role, he must get a bachelor’s degree in psychology, counseling, social work, or sociology and then a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy.
Then the therapist will also be required to finish two years of work under supervision after he graduates. This would be a total of 2,000 to 4,000 hours of practice in the clinical setting. When these are met, the family therapist will most likely also need to submit and pass an exam specific to his state and complete yearly continuing education subjects.
Goals of Family Therapy
In essence, the primary objective of family therapy is to work with the family to help it heal from mental, psychological, or emotional difficulties that are destroying the entire family. To do this, the family therapist must help families improve the way they treat and talk to each other, how they solve their problems, and understand and deal with various situations that they may be confronted with every day.
The goals depend on the problems presented by the clients. For instance, they may differ depending on the following situations:
- A family member is diagnosed with schizophrenia or psychosis. The goal here is to guide other members of the family so that they will learn to understand the nature of the disorder and be able to adapt to the psychological changes that the schizophrenic family member is going through.
- Families that contradict social norms, such as gay and lesbian relationships, unmarried couples living together, etc.) The objective here is not often to give attention to particular internal issues. Still, the members might require help in dealing with external factors, such as the attitude of society.
- Issues originating from cross-generational restrictions, like when parents live with grandparents, or children raised by their grandparents. The objective is to enhance communication and help each member create healthy boundaries.
- Families who come from diverse cultural, religious, or racial backgrounds. The goal here is to aid families in understanding each other better and learn to build healthy family relationships.
- The client’s problems are seemingly connected to problems with other members of the family. In circumstances where the problems are profoundly connected to problems with other members, the objective is to tackle each contributing concern and then resolve or reduce the effects of these problems to the entire family.
- Blended families or stepfamilies. These types of families can be affected negatively by issues that are specific to their situation. For the blended family, the objective of family therapy is to improve comprehension and build good interactions between one another.