Family therapy is a brand of psychotherapy that works with families and couples in order to heal their relationships. Family therapy can be required for a variety of different reasons; can be used to heal a relationship when a partner has been unfaithful, when one or more family members are suffering from a drug or alcohol addiction, when a member of the family has a mental disorder such as depression or when one or more family members has a behavioral addiction such as codependency or gambling addiction. The number of sessions for family therapy is varied on the extent of the issues but normally spaces between 5 to 20 sessions.
The purpose of family therapy is for the family to learn how to better interact with each other and to encourage healthy communication and behaviors. It also teaches members on how to better resolve conflicts in a healthy manner without shouting or fighting. The family is seen as a whole social system rather than a combination of different individual members. This helps the family to work better as a whole and allows members to identify their roles and parts they play in the system.
Family therapists may use the following techniques when working with families:
Communication theory– Communication theory teaches the members how to effectively communicate as a whole with one another in a healthy manner. This is useful not only for day to day use but when conflicts arise it helps teach members to prevent these conflicts from being exacerbated by miscommunication and excessive blaming.
Psychoeducation; Psychoeducation teaches family members on how to live and deal with one member suffering from a mental disorder such as schizophrenia or depression. Members with these illnesses often act out of the ordinary and can cause extra stress upon the family system as a whole. Teaching members how to better help the ill member and how to co-exist in a more peaceful environment will not only make the family system stronger but will often better help the ill member live with their disorder.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy helps family systems to identify specific circumstances that cause conflict and disorder. This identification will help the family members practice behavioral change in order to prevent these issues and for the family system to run better.
Interpersonal Therapy– Interpersonal therapy is when the family simply discusses their issues amongst one another with a therapist mediating in case conflict arises that cannot be healthily resolved by the family without aid. Interpersonal therapy helps family members to resolve past and possible future issues in a safe environment and also helps members relate to what one another is feeling.
Relationship education– relationship education teaches family members how to relate to one another. Often family systems break down when members can not relate or understand how their actions affect each other. Relationship education teaches empathy for one another and in so doing promotes behavioral change to prevent conflict, thoughtlessness and misunderstanding.
Reality therapy– reality therapy focuses on the here and now in the family system. It gives each member of the family the opportunity to identify and present to one another what they want at that very moment. In so doing they also identify whether or not their behavioral patterns and actions have been bringing them nearer to their goals in a healthy manner that does not negatively impact one another. This method allows the family to move forwards with a set of group goals. Family members will not simply look out for themselves but be more consciously aware of others and how they can help them.
Systems theory– Systems theory is a general look at the family system as a whole. It will pinpoint the issues that arise in the system and tackle these problems for the future. With the family system working as whole, individual members will be able to live more effectively and healthily.
Family therapists may also suggest for the family to practice bonding exercise outside of therapy such as more frequent family meals together and maybe once a week doing something together as the whole family such as trips to the movies, zoo etc.