Many family members may resist therapy, particularly when it is first initiated. Families seek therapy due to persistent arguments and conflicts, the emotional distance between members, difficulties communicating, and unresolved issues from the past that are impacting current functioning.

Addressing Issues

Family psychiatry and therapy is a form of psychotherapy that helps families address their problems. It aims to improve communication, resolve conflicts, and disrupt unhealthy behavior patterns.

It can help families cope with various issues, such as the death of a loved one, relationship difficulties, or mental health challenges. It can also assist with adjusting to life changes, like divorce or a new job.

Therapists can use different approaches to family therapy depending on the needs of each family. For example, a therapist can employ functional family therapy to address a teen’s substance use by teaching them better coping skills and fostering healthier relationships. They can also use solution-focused therapy to help families generate treatment goals. The counselor can also offer psychoeducation, which teaches family members about mental health conditions like anxiety or depression.

Developing Communication Skills

Effective communication is critical for family members to understand one another. A therapist can help families learn how to effectively communicate and listen to each other in ways that promote understanding and hope.

Family therapy can also include training in conflict resolution and facilitating productive discussions. This can involve teaching skills such as active listening, expressing emotions, and using “I” statements to promote open dialogue.

Sometimes, family therapists must be prepared for resistance and hesitation from some family members. This is often a result of fear and skepticism about the effectiveness of therapy. In these cases, a therapist can use empathy and trust-building techniques to create a safe space for family members to discuss their feelings and struggles. This can also help them realize that their challenges are common and manageable.

Identifying Strengths

Strengths-based family therapy focuses on all family members’ positive capabilities and skills. Research in positive psychology shows that people who identify and regularly use their strengths feel happier and more confident.

Therapists often help clients to re-frame weaknesses as strengths. For example, someone who tends to worry a lot can also be compassionate and caring. Therapists might encourage clients to keep a strength journal or ask them to identify when they used their strengths as a coping strategy during a challenging experience.

Systemic family therapy identifies problematic relationships, ideas, and attitudes contributing to the problem and works toward shifting these dynamics to improve family functioning. The therapist may suggest psychoeducation, out-of-session assignments, or experimentation to promote these changes.

Developing a Vision for the Future

A major goal of family therapy is helping families build on their strengths. Therapists identify and celebrate accomplishments, enhance hope for solving problems, and help family members generate treatment goals.

One approach to treating mental health issues in families is solution-focused counseling. This type of family therapy avoids structural-strategic family counseling and instead focuses on identifying solutions to specific problems, such as substance use behavior.

Another approach is systems therapy, which looks at relationships as complex entities with feedback loops. This helps families identify and break free of unhelpful, damaging behavior that may have been passed down through generations. This is a highly effective and often short-term approach that may be used to treat various disorders.

Developing Goals

Family therapy can help families develop and achieve goals for change. For example, if the client is struggling with substance abuse, family counseling may help address enabling behaviors and promote communication about healthy boundaries for the entire household.

Structural family therapy uses an empathetic approach to understanding the hierarchy and boundaries of family subsystems. This type of family therapy encourages change through insight and helps members understand their roles within the system.

Strategic family therapy, on the other hand, suggests that change comes before understanding and requires interaction shifts. Often, this is the most challenging part of therapy for families. Family therapists may assign homework assignments to help families practice new patterns of interaction between sessions. The therapist may also provide booster sessions to review progress and negotiate further changes.