Family therapy benefits
Family therapy can help improve problematic relationships with your spouse, children or other family members. You can address specific issues such as marital or financial problems, parent-child conflicts, or the effects of substance abuse or mental illness in the entire family.
Your family can continue family therapy along with other types of mental health treatment, especially if one of you has a mental illness or addiction that also requires individual therapy or a rehabilitation treatment. For example, family therapy can help family members cope if a family member has schizophrenia – but the person with schizophrenia should continue with their individualized treatment plan, which may include medication, one-on-one counseling, or of another treatment.
In the case of addiction, the family can attend family therapy, while the person who has an addiction participates in residential treatment. Sometimes the family can participate in family therapy, even if the addict has not sought their own treatment.
Family therapy can be useful in any family situation that causes stress, pain, anger or conflict. It can help you and your family to better understand each other and get you closer.
What to expect
Family therapy typically brings several members of a family into therapy sessions. However, a family member may also see an individual family therapist. Sessions usually take about 50 minutes to an hour. Family therapy is often short-term – usually less than six months. However, how often you are and how many sessions you will need will depend on the particular situation of your family and the therapist’s recommendation.
During family therapy, you will examine your family’s ability to solve problems and express thoughts and emotions. You can explore family roles, behavioral norms and patterns in order to identify the issues that contribute to conflict – as well as how to work through these issues. Family therapy can help you identify your family’s strengths, such as caring for one another, and weaknesses such as difficulty trusting others.
For example, let’s say your adult child has depression. Your family does not understand your depression or the best way to offer support. Although you are concerned about your child’s health, conversations with your child or other family members erupt into arguments and leave you feeling frustrated and angry. Communication diminishes, decisions go unmade, and the gap widens.
In such a situation, family therapy can help you identify your specific challenges and how your family is managing them. Guided by your therapist, you will learn new ways of interacting and overcoming unhealthy patterns of relating to each other. You can set individual and family goals and work on ways to achieve them. In the end, your child may be better able to cope with their depression, and the whole family can achieve a sense of understanding and solidarity.