Being part of a family is more complicated and dynamic than ever before. While we want to foster strong family connections and bonds, we also live in a time where it is critical for our children to develop autonomy and independence. There are several goals of Family therapy that aim to understand each individual family member as an independent person within the family system, while simultaneously looking at how the family functions as a whole. We achieve that by:
- Identifying the position of each player within the family.
- Learning to value autonomy and integrating individual strengths.
- Running inventory of resource contribution versus resource depletion.
Let’s use the analogy of a sports team. Each teammate has a unique and distinct position. The goalie of a soccer team doesn’t contribute to the team by playing offense. This would leave the goal wide and vulnerable to an offensive attack. It’s critical that positions and players function differently. Conversely, if the entire team is in a position of reactivity and defensiveness, then there is no opportunity for growth and forward momentum. In our family therapy sessions, we ask parents and children alike to identify the level and diversity of contribution that each provides to the family as a whole. “Performing at the level we’re at, would this team make it to the world cup?” If not, what would need to be different in order to strengthen the collective?
Strengthen the Individuals, Strengthen the Family
The mistake that we make in family systems work is operating from the assumption that all members should have a similar or consistent approach. At the Family Development Collective, we strive to identify the strengths and assets of each individual member of the family. Then we work within the system to create an integrated and balanced approach. Each member can contribute where they are optimally suited to do so. For example, the child who is full of endless energy and may have a difficult time with focus is given the opportunity to become the life of the family that brings energy to the system. The goal is to reframe the symptom so that it becomes a strength and a path for contribution, rather than a maladaptive label – the “problem child”.
Each family member has the responsibility to contribute to home life and family relationships, both emotionally (supportive and uplifting team attitude) and physically (household contributions and chores). This leaves each family member with the distinct ability to deteriorate the system by overusing limited resources – taking without replenishing. Family therapy teaches each parent and child to become aware of the contribution to depletion ratios. If the balance is skewed, it needs to be addressed. I often hear concerns from parents around addressing each child differently, or holding them to different standards. All this tells me is that the family is learning to develop a customized approach based on the individual child. It’s important that each family member gets what they need and since a family is composed of unique individuals, the independent needs will vary.
Customization is Key
In summary, family therapy is about the delicate and diverse balance of the family team. Every individual plays their own position on the team, but each position is dependent on the other in order to achieve victory. When we shift our lens to think of it this way, family therapy becomes uplifting, supportive, collaborative and solution-focused.
Newport Beach Family Development Center
At Newport Beach Family Development Center, we offer treatment that moves beyond symptom relief by establishing a resilient foundation. All treatments are personalized and fluid, meaning as your life changes, so will your approach to strengthening your unique connection to yourself. Contact Us today to schedule an intake session and learn if Family therapy is right for you.