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Marriage and
Family Therapy

What's on this page

    Marriage and family therapy, also known as couples therapy or family systems therapy, is a branch of psychotherapy that works primarily on relationships between families and couples in intimate relationships.

    The Family Dynamic

    Family therapists typically focus on the patterns of interaction and how patterns sustain family problems instead of working to find a cause. For some families, finding a cause may lay blame on one family member, which is generally unhealthy within the family dynamic. Marriage and family therapists look at the family unit as larger than each member.

    Marriage and family therapists (MFT) usually come from a variety of professional backgrounds. Some are specifically trained, qualified or licensed and registered in family therapy, although licensure is not required in many areas.

    Family Therapists Assist Clients With:

    • Crises based on interaction or transitional issues, such as conflict, estrangement, child and adolescent problems or divorce.
    • Serious psychological problems, such as anxiety, depression, personality and conflict disorders addictions or even eating disorders.
    • Additional support for other therapy.

    Therapeutic Techniques

    The marriage family therapist uses a range of counseling and other techniques such as communication theory, psychotherapy, systems theory, coaching and psycho-education. Some of the important ideas behind family therapy include structure, strategic therapy, behavioral approaches, psychodynamic, intergenerational and experiential. Many family therapists differ in approach depending on the patient, or patients, and often use multiple forms of therapy in treatment.

    The marriage and family therapist will usually meet with several members of the family at a time, which is said to have several advantages, including helping family members see the differences in how they perceive relationships. This technique assists the therapist in seeing interactional patterns between family members. These patterns usually mirror what happens outside of therapy.

    Marriage counseling focuses solely on how a married couple interacts and deals with the issues of a couple, rather than the entire family. If the couple has children, the therapy may extend to marriage and family, but only if the marriage therapist notes that the issues deal with matters beyond the couple. Marriage counseling can be done individually or as a couple. Some couples elect to undergo counseling before the wedding ceremony takes placet in an attempt to process underlying issues.

    Relationship Systems

    Marriage and family therapists view relationships as systems and focus treatment on the interactions within the system. Marriage counseling and family therapy based upon establishing new thought patterns. MFTs are relational therapists and examine interactions between people, rather than the people themselves. A family therapist usually will point out family interaction patterns the family may not notice and suggest different methods of interaction.