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What is family therapy?

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While individual therapy is the most common type of therapy, there are other types that you should know about. One of these is family therapy.

Do you find it stressful to be around your family? Is your family having a hard time coping with financial or other stress? Do you worry about how your family’s stress is affecting your children? If your answer to any of these questions is “yes,” family therapy may be what you’re looking for. 

Read this post to learn more about what family therapy is, how it works, and whether it’s the right fit for your family.

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What is family therapy?

Family therapy has many similarities to individual therapy. In family therapy, you meet with a therapist, usually once a week and for about an hour. You talk through some of the challenges your family is experiencing and explore ideas for making them better.

What’s special about family therapy is that instead of it being just you with the therapist, it’s you and your family members. You can do family therapy with as few as 2 people. There’s no official maximum number of family members who can participate in family therapy, but it might be difficult to do with more than 5 people at a time. 

Also, the entire family (and not any individual member) is the therapist’s client. So instead of focusing on your individual challenges, the therapist focuses on what your family is struggling with as a whole. 

Any family member who is in family therapy can also get their own individual therapy. This is usually done with a different therapist so that your family therapist can remain neutral in family sessions.

How does family therapy work?

Family therapy usually starts with the therapist getting to know each family member. The therapist will ask about your family’s history and what you each hope to get out of therapy. 

The earliest sessions of family therapy will help the therapist understand what makes your family unique and may be contributing to the challenges you are facing. 

It is common for family problems to have a negative and unique impact on each member of the family. For example, when parents in a family are very stressed and overworked it can put a lot of pressure on their children to take on parental responsibilities. 

What makes family therapy so effective is that it gives family members a neutral space to talk about their issues. It can help give your family members a voice if they struggle to express themselves. With the help of a therapist, family members can discuss what’s bothering them in a productive way. 

A therapist can also point out unhelpful communication and relationship patterns that are contributing to your family’s current issues. They can guide your family in trying to find new ways of communicating and solving problems.

When is family therapy a good idea?

Family therapy can be a good idea if your family’s problems are having a negative impact on you and other family members. If it seems like trying to talk about these issues only makes things worse, family therapy might be the solution.

It’s also a great option to consider if your family has conflict due to differences in values. It can be very hard to resolve tension that comes from family members having different views on religion, sexuality, gender identity, gender roles, and cultural norms. A family therapist can help you talk about these differences. If family conflict is resulting from some family members’ identity not being respected or accepted by other family members, you can also use family therapy to discuss individual members’ emotions and needs.

When is family therapy not a good idea?

Family therapy will not work if your family members are unwilling to try it. 

Also, family therapy may not be a good idea when there is abuse in the household. In those cases, individual therapy may be best to help you process your emotions and develop coping strategies. Family therapy can be attempted once it is clear that this will be safe for everyone involved.

Where can I find family therapy services?

You can find family therapy in most places where you can find individual therapy. However, because some therapists are not trained in family therapy, it may take more time to find a therapist to work with your family. You can search Therapy4thePeople’s directory of affordable mental health services to find family therapy options near you.

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