Family therapy can be important in treating some mental health disorders. It can provide individuals with the tools they need to understand and deal with the challenges they are facing. But if you’ve ever asked yourself “is family therapy right for us” even if there isn’t a mental health diagnosis, the answer can absolutely be “yes.”
Family therapy can benefit anyone who wants to improve relationships with their family members. No issue is too small or too big to discuss. The goal of family therapy is to help families communicate effectively and work together as a unit for the benefit of each individual.
Reasons for Family Therapy
Even the best parent can’t always meet the many challenges that a family can face. Times of increased stress can cause conflict between family members that eventually erodes the function of the family unit as a whole. A therapist’s job is to listen to family members closely and help them adjust patterns of interaction so they are more functional and supportive of one another.
Therapy isn’t a quick fix for a family’s problems, but it is a tool that can benefit the group dynamic while also helping individual members increase their self-confidence. There are many reasons why a family would choose to participate in therapy. Some of those reasons are:
- Grief over events like the loss of a family member or other loved one
- Changes at home, such as a new baby, relocation, or a grandparent moving in
- Domestic violence
- Trauma, such as a serious illness or surviving a natural disaster
- Mental health disorders, including substance use disorders and behavioral or process disorders
Family therapists offer a specialized set of skills for dealing with these kinds of issues and more. When choosing a family therapist, make sure to select a professional who is trained and credentialed for performing this unique type of counseling.
Achieving Goals Together and Individually
Like couples counseling or other modes of therapy that include more than one person, family therapy is helpful to both the family unit and the individuals within the unit. Therapy can strengthen communication skills while helping members empathize and understand one another on a deeper level. During therapy, members are given the tools they need to reduce conflict and become better problem solvers.
These tools not only help the family function in a healthier manner, but they also help individuals in all aspects of life. Knowing how to set healthy boundaries and communicate effectively prepares the individual for success in their academic career, work life, and personal life.
Some families come to therapy with wellness goals already in mind. They may want to learn how to resolve conflicts better or how to heal around the actions of a single member. Those goals may be productive and appropriate, or the process of therapy might inspire them to adjust their goals to something even greater than they realized their family was capable of.
In all cases, the guidance of a mental health professional can help families break down those goals into achievable steps that family members can all take together.
Does Family Therapy Work?
Scientific studies have shown that emotional and behavioral interventions like therapy work as well, and sometimes better, than medications for treating common mental health concerns.
Working with a family therapist provides the opportunity for individual members to get the treatment they need for managing mental health disorders while also teaching other family members healthy ways of coping with their challenges.
Sometimes talking out problems with an empathetic person does help individuals figure out how to resolve their problems, but family therapy is much more than a sympathetic ear. Therapists listen to gather data. By watching and listening as the family interacts, they can see what’s working and what’s not.
It’s difficult to recognize our own patterns. A therapist is trained to recognize a family’s patterns and provide the appropriate interventions to correct dysfunctional ways of interacting.
Having a family therapist on your side is like having a coach on your team. The coach provides the tools, mentoring, and homework that allows team members to excel, but the team must participate in the process if it’s going to be successful. In the same way, family members must practice the skills they are being taught during therapy sessions in order to meet their goals.
How Long Does Family Therapy Last?
The myth that once a person starts therapy, they are “stuck” going for the rest of their lives may deter some families from getting the support they need. Effective family therapy is meant to be a tool that you can use temporarily to achieve your goals.
A good family therapist wants your family to start benefiting from therapy as soon as possible. Creating an individualized treatment plan that addresses your family’s specific needs is one way the therapist helps make that happen. Your family’s level of participation greatly influences how well and quickly therapy works.
Can Your Family Benefit from Therapy?
You don’t have to be struggling with serious mental health concerns to benefit from family therapy. Most families could use extra support in learning how to communicate in a positive, supportive way.
During your first therapy appointment, your therapist will ask several questions in an effort to learn more about your family’s dynamic, current issues, and behavioral patterns. During the initial appointment, you will get a better feel for the therapy process and what it has to offer.
If you decide that therapy is not for you, there’s no obligation to make another appointment. Sometimes it takes more than one session or seeing more than one therapist to find the right fit.
Therapy helps families overcome challenges and strengthen their connections. Like links in a chain, the family unit is stronger when each member feels heard, understood, and appreciated for who they are.