As parents of a teenager, the path forward is not always an easy one. At times you may find yourselves disagreeing about what discipline to put in place, what is at the root of any problems that manifest or even how to react. If siblings are involved, they may kick off, feeling left out because all of the attention is on the teen who is troubled and not on them. In these circumstances, family therapy can help all parties involved.
Because the specific dynamics of the family can have a major effect upon the way that the teenager behaves, family therapy can be incredibly useful. A skilled family therapist will look at the influences taking place, analysing and interpreting those which are most crucial. By involving the whole family, issues such as problems between specific members can be looked at and the unit shown how to relate to and enable the teen to move forward in a positive way. Unhealthy reactions within the family group will be examined and everyone will be shown how to use effective and empathic communication methods. Research shows that when the whole family is treated with therapy, then problem areas affecting the troubled teen can be tackled more effectively. This is often much more powerful than trying to treat the teen in isolation.
Finding a suitable family therapist
When seeking a suitable family therapist, it is always recommended to use a professional who is knowledgeable, skilled and well trained. You also need a family counsellor or therapist who has worked with families before and is particularly used to helping teenagers. In order for the family therapy to be the most effective, the therapist needs to fit well with the family and the teenager needs to feel that they can talk to them and feel relaxed in their presence. They will need to be able to engage well with the teenager involved; if this seems not to be the case, it may be worth looking for an alternative therapist.
Taking part in family therapy
Before the first therapy session, all family members need to understand that they will need to be involved in order to provide help and support. The family therapy will always be conducted in a place that is safe with all personal details being kept securely in order to maintain trust and privacy. After the first session, the counsellor will advise whether all members need to take part going forward and if so, will ask them to agree to further participation. The therapist will aim to find out what changes need to take place and will talk to everyone involved, needing to know when the problems began and whether you are aware of any contributing factors. If you want to make a list of questions to ask the family therapist, here are a few suggestions that you may wish to make use of:
- How long will it be before positive changes begin to take place?
- Have you had success with teenagers and families in the past?
- What should we do to make the experience more positive?
- How long do you think we will all need to be involved in this course of therapy?
Family therapy can take anything from two to six months, with much depending upon the individual needs of the family and the teen. You are likely to find your therapist using a mix of approaches from different schools of psychotherapy, rather than concentrating on just one; this will enable the treatment to be tailored to suit all circumstances and mixes of problems.