What is Family Therapy?
Family therapy, also known as family counseling, is a specialized form of psychotherapy that focuses on addressing mental health conditions and family issues within concept of a family system. Family therapists, often licensed marriage and family therapists or other mental health professionals, employ various therapeutic approaches to help families navigate the complexities of their relationships and improve overall family functioning. This therapeutic modality draws from a range of techniques and theories, each designed to suit different family dynamics and goals of family therapy.
One prominent approach for a family therapist is family systems theory, which emphasizes the interconnectedness of family members and how changes in one part of the family system can impact the entire family. However, there are many other approaches to marriage and family therapy. These approaches can help with problem solving, planned interventions, finding a space to reevaluate or reshape harmful narratives, finding ways to shift unhealthy patterns, and more. Whether addressing mental health problems, major life transitions, chronic illness, or extended family dynamics, family therapy offers a comprehensive and holistic approach to helping family members build stronger relationships and achieve greater mental health and well-being. In this article, we will delve into five distinct family therapy counseling techniques and explore how they can benefit families seeking support and healing.
Useful Counseling Techniques for Family Therapy
- Structural Therapy
- Milan Therapy
- Strategic Therapy
- Narrative Therapy
- Transgenerational Therapy
When we are little, family is all we know. It’s where it all begins. The people we are surrounded by, where we live, the rules we are taught, the way we are talked to…all of this sets the foundation for who we are. While many children are raised in stable and positive households, some are not so lucky. Analyzing someone’s childhood and their family system through family therapy with a licensed family therapist is the first step towards understanding them better. Keep reading along with us as we dive deeper into 5 common and useful family therapy counseling techniques…
1. Structural Therapy
Structural family therapy assesses power dynamics within the family unit, and analyzes each family member’s assigned “role” within the family unit. Family hierarchies are examined and analyzed, and the amount of power that each individual family member has is examined and, if necessary, redistributed. Structural therapy seeks to empower each family member and to individualize the needs of each one, in addition to establishing respect between all family members.
2. Milan Therapy
This therapeutic technique focuses on the analysis of belief systems harbored by individual family members or by the collective as a whole, and challenges family rituals and practices particularly as they relate to conflict. By forcing attention to these belief systems – unconscious and subconscious – Milan therapy seeks to dismantle and disempower belief systems that perpetuate conflict within family units.
3. Strategic Therapy
Strategic therapy closely examines patterns of interaction and conflict between family members and seeks to increase awareness and mindfulness of these patterns. A more direct approach than some other family therapy techniques, each individual family member is assigned work in order to improve how they interact with their other family members, particularly those who may be facing unique challenges or struggling with mental or neurological illnesses or disorders. This therapy technique also subverts the authority of the most dominant family member, allowing communication changes to evolve positively between family members and the symptom sufferer.
4. Narrative Therapy
Narrative therapy helps individual family members to shape their personal narratives by recognizing and embracing individual positive qualities, skills, and gifts in order to help them constructively confront and conquer problems they may be facing within their family unit or within their own individual lives. Narrative therapy encourages patients to break free of the influence of negative or destructive influences that may undermine internal recognition and embrasure of one’s own value, capability, and competency. Narrative therapy is also used in other areas of counseling, such as community or individual counseling and therapy.
5. Transgenerational Therapy
Transgenerational therapy examines intergenerational relationships and conflicts in family units, and closely examines and breaks down problematic or destructive belief systems that are often transmitted between one generation and the next. This method can be especially useful when more than two generations of a family are living in the same home and facing conflict – for example, grandparents, parents, and children all living together. This technique is often used in tandem with Milan therapy.
Diving Into Family Therapy…
Functional family therapy is often short-term, averaging five to twenty sessions. It’s pretty remarkable how quickly clients can begin to see the benefits of family therapy. A family therapist may use one, two, or even all of these techniques depending on the individual needs of the family in question. This may also depend on the individual diagnoses of each family member that may impact family dynamics and conflict. The goal of family therapy is to establish a harmonious and healthy family unit, and to give each family member skills and tools to deepen healthy relationships with their families for years to come.