What is the purpose of family therapy and what are the different types?


We all have a family, each of them very different.  It may be made up of blood relatives but also adopted or fostered members or even people who figure greatly and have been present for a long time.  Whatever the mix no matter how big, small or complex, it will have a big effect on the way that we develop and behave, from the beginning to the end of our lives.

Because families can be so varied, sometimes the impact upon us is a positive one but not always; good or bad, we learn our habits, way of life and patterns of behaviour from our family.  How our life progresses and how we deal with the world can be altered dramatically by our particular group.  When families are healthy and strong, our relationships tend to be the same.  But if the unit is dysfunctional or problematic, we may end up struggling to deal with other people generally. Although this is not something that cannot be dealt with, it can impact our feeling of well-being and happiness.

The purpose of family therapy

Family therapy can be used to deal with problems that may rear their heads, enabling even the most problematic of families to function correctly.  It can be used to deal with specific single issues, during difficult periods or to assist with behavioural or emotional problems affecting specific members of the group.  Even individual problems are looked at within the context of the family group, the idea being that issues cannot be tackled correctly if the group dynamics are not taken into account. How the family interact with each other impacts upon how clients develop problems, as well as whether they are aided or hindered by the other family members.

A variety of techniques and process may be brought into play by the family therapist such as CBT and interpersonal or behaviour therapy; which of these are used will depend upon the issues faced.

Different types of family therapy

Here are just a few of the most frequently used types of family therapy:

Bowenian – used more often when clients do not want other family members to be involved. It focuses on triangulation; venting by talking to a 3rd party and differentiation; learning how to be less emotionally reactive within the family unit.

Structural – this is used to strengthen and adjust the family unit, putting in place a structure with grownups and children observing boundaries. The therapist will normally join with the family so that they can see ow the present dynamics operate.

Systemic –here the focus is on the unconscious interactions and reasons why certain behaviour is apparent.  With the family therapist remaining at a distance, they will delve into any problems that exist.

Strategic – this purely involves homework being set by the family therapist, the aim being for it to change the way the family interacts.  Taking the lead, the counsellor will ensure that every family member has a chance to be heard, even if they are not usually.

No matter the type of problems being faced, family therapy can be extremely effective when used in the right way by a professional therapist.

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