From better communication and conflict resolution to resolving sibling issues, there are many benefits of coming together as a family for counselling.
- A branch of psychotherapy, family counselling focuses on creating healthy dynamics within the family unit.
- Bowenian (with an individual focus), structural (which works on strengthening the family system), systemic (where the unconscious communications between family members are key) and strategic (which focuses on changing the way family members interact) are the most common forms of family therapy.
- Family counselling recognises that individual problems within the system affect other members of the family, so the solution is to involve all members in therapy.
They say you can’t choose your family. But you can choose your therapist.
Cynicism aside, family therapy, which works with members of a family to solve a group or individual problem, can have far-reaching benefits for all involved.
Learn more about how this form of counselling works and the advantages of seeing a therapist as a group.
What is family therapy?
Family therapy is a branch of psychotherapy that focuses specifically on family relationships. It works from the premise that a problem lies within the family as a whole, rather than with a single person within the family unit. It helps family members help each other and work things out together. It can be beneficial in enabling family members to express and explore difficult thoughts and emotions safely, to deepen their understanding of each other, and to appreciate each other’s needs better and make changes in their lives.
What are the most common types of family therapy?
Family therapy can employ many different techniques, from cognitive therapy, behaviour therapy, interpersonal therapy, or other types of individual therapy. However, the most common types of family therapy are:
- Bowenian: This form of family therapy is best suited for situations in which individuals cannot – or do not – want to involve other family members in the treatment. Bowenian therapy is built on two core concepts, triangulation (the natural tendency to vent or de-stress by talking to a third party) and differentiation (learning to become less emotionally reactive in family relationships).
- Structural: Structural therapy focuses on adjusting and strengthening the family system to ensure that the parents are in control and that both children and adults set appropriate boundaries. In this form of therapy, the therapist “joins” the family in order to observe, learn, and enhance their ability to strengthen their relationships.
- Systemic: The systemic model refers to the type of therapy that focuses on the unconscious communications and the meaning behind family members’ behaviours. The therapist in this form of treatment is neutral and distant, allowing the family members to dive deeper into their issues and problems as a family.
- Strategic: In this form of therapy, which is more brief and direct than the others, the therapist assigns “homework” to the family. This homework is intended to change the way family members interact, assess and adjust the way the family communicates and makes decisions. The therapist takes the position of power in this type of therapy, which allows other family members who may not usually hold as much power, communicate more effectively.
How does family therapy work?
As seen above, the methods used in family therapy can vary greatly, and every member of the family may not necessarily have to attend every single session. The first session gives the therapist a chance to learn more about the family and what’s going on, while subsequent sessions can focus on the family dynamic and pertinent issues. Treatment may be short-term, lasting around six months, if the family is focusing on specific issues that are eventually resolved. Longer-term treatment can also be an option. In general, family therapy sessions can:
- Review a family’s current communication abilities, such as how each member expresses emotions and thoughts
- Explore how the family normally resolves conflicts
- Examine the family’s rules, roles and behaviours to discern those that may be detrimental or contribute to conflict
- Offer productive ways to work through conflicts and issues
- Point out a family’s strengths and weakness and offer tips on improving both
What are the benefits of family therapy?
Family therapy is often used in conjunction with treating an individual’s problem that is affecting the entire family, such as addiction, divorce, or behavioural problems. In family therapy, the unit of treatment is the family, and the person, say, abusing substances is regarded as part of the sub-system. As in any system, all things are interconnected. Instead of addressing problems solely on an individual basis, family counselling recognises that individual problems within the system affect other members of the family, so the solution is to involve all members in therapy.
The benefits of coming together as a family for counselling are:
- Family members will learn their strengths and weaknesses
- They will learn better ways to communicate feelings
- They will learn ways to resolve issues
- It can resolve sibling issues
- Gain better parent-child communication
- Gain clear perspective of how a family functions, and each person’s role
- Discuss feelings about particular issues that the family has been dealing with, and come to solutions
The goal of family therapy is to meet the needs of all of the members in the family. The solution strived for in family therapy is for the family to function better because, when the family functions better as a whole, each individual within the system does better.
Learn more about the different types of therapy, and how they can be used to combat the issues facing society as a whole, by studying a course in counselling. Programs such as the Diploma in Counselling and Communication and the Bachelor of Applied Social Science provide invaluable communication skills, and will qualify you to pursue a career in counselling. For more information, enquire now.