What is Family Therapy?
Family therapy is a holistic type of psychotherapy that aims to facilitate families to understand their specific type of family, enabling family members to discern between healthy family development and areas of potential concern. It helps families to overcome transitions and challenges; resolve conflict; optimise the quality of interpersonal relationships and their communication; and function harmoniously.
There are many ways of doing family, such as nuclear-, multigenerational-, restructured-, single-headed household-, grandparent headed-, and childless- families, to name a few. It is important to note that there is no right way of doing family, but that all manners of doing family have their own unique developmental phases, benefits, and challenges.
Family therapy differs from individual therapy in that family members may be involved in therapy or the approach with the individual involves discussions around family dynamics. Sometimes, family therapy may occur in tandem with individual therapies.
The type of approach that your clinical psychologist uses depends on the family type, dynamic, and presenting complaint.
What Can You Expect to Get Out of Family Therapy?
Family therapy is a powerful form of therapy that draws from the collective family recourses to work together as a unit towards optimising family relationships. During counselling sessions, the focus will often be on the healing of any psychological and interpersonal challenges. These often affect the equilibrium within your family unit.
Goals will depend entirely on the problems that are presented and what the family wants to achieve. Each problem is unique and so is each family. The benefits of family therapy are enormous. Family therapy can greatly improve communication and enhance the subjective experience of the collective unit. It aims to solve family problems, where the handling and understanding of problems and situations are unpacked.
The goal is to create a better functioning all-around home environment for all types of family situations.
9 Common Goals and Scenarios for Family Therapy
The goals of family therapy sessions depend on a variety of factors often influenced by your family situation.
- Restructured Families. Restructured families where there may be biological parents, children, secondary guardians/step-parents, half-siblings, extended kin etc. residing in different houses can often become complex and require organisation and adaptability to accommodate all members of the family. Biological parents learn how to differentiate their co-parental roles from the previous partnership roles, identifying what bridges to build and which doors to close. The aim is to work to the advantage of the children benefiting from multiple supportive relationships. It is also important to support and identify the role of secondary guardians. The goal is to facilitate healthy interactions between family members.
- Cross-Generational Family Units. Challenges that could arise are cross-generational boundaries that are crossed. Parents sharing homes with grandparents could maintain relational strain. The goal is to improve communication and set effective norms and healthy boundaries.
- Adoptive Families. Adoptive families may need assistance processing the impact of previous stressors caused by fertility challenges, dealing with the adoptive process, incorporating a new family member, effectively building close relational ties, effectively speaking to the child about their adoption and facilitating adoptive families through questions and emotional impacts the child may need assistance with throughout his/her life.
- Effective Negotiation of Family Developmental Phases. Different family types have different developmental phases that may require effective negotiation, such as: Marriage or Separation; Co-habitation; Birth of a child; Leaving home phase; Re-partnering; and Geriatric parents, to name a few. All of these phases can be delicate and require families to make healthy progress in the family skilfully.
- Mental Illness. Families may need professional help when one or multiple family members suffer from mental disorders. These could include depression, anxiety, addiction, and schizophrenia, to name a few. The goal is to assist the family unit to understand, cope with, and address the disorder. It may require certain shifts in the family unit to ease the potential strain for all involved.
- Diverse Families. Families could find they need assistance in negotiating diversity within the family, such as multi-cultural or religious backgrounds. These families could benefit from family therapy to help everyone understand each other and negotiate space for individual needs.
- In–Law Challenges. Many families battle to overcome conflict between the couple regarding in-law dynamics. Therapy can assist a couple on how to direct extended kin’s involvement effectively and how boundaries and collaboration can be achieved.
- Additional Support. You might find that a member in the family receiving treatment requires additional support from their family members. The facilitation of increased understanding and empathy can greatly assist a family member to overcome a difficulty, knowing they are supported and not alone.
- Trauma and Grief. Families can benefit significantly from family therapy when one or multiple family members underwent a trauma or the loss of a loved one. By creating a safe family environment to process painful experiences and support one another where all family members share and have a space for their experience to be validated and understood, can greatly assist in dealing with the event, but also solidify family ties.
Why Do We Need Family Therapy?
Family therapy sessions can greatly assist individual members of a family unit to deepen connections amongst each other. Your family can utilise the tools they acquire during family therapy to assist during times of distress.
Family therapy in my practice aims to aid families towards optimal familial functioning that are far-reaching to deal with problems beyond the psychologist’s offices.
Family therapy is usually short term. The idea is to include everyone within the family unit. Alternatively, only the willing participants will be counselled.
Get Your Appointment Today to Help Your Family!
Looking for a clinical psychologist who can do family therapy in the Pretoria East area? Contact Erika Nell Clinical Psychology today and book an appointment. As a qualified independent Clinical Psychologist registered at the Health Professions Council of South Africa, Erika Nell is ready and equipped to help make a difference in your family!