What is Family Therapy & Who is it Best for

What is Family Therapy & Who is it Best for

Family life in the fast-paced 21st Century is fraught with problems. We may love our families, but with the rising cost of living, growing poverty, time management issues, substance abuse that seems to permeate society at every level, and upsets at work and school spilling over into the home environment, we often unintentionally take out our frustrations on those closest to us.

When it seems the family’s problems are getting out of hand, a family therapist may be the solution to help guide in managing the conflicts and challenges that create so much shared unhappiness. 

At Guided Grace, our team of professionals is committed to supporting families and young individuals through our comprehensive range of services. We offer therapy and counseling specifically designed for children and teenagers who are encountering a range of challenges within their family, social, or educational environments. Whether it’s addressing concerning behaviors or healing emotional wounds, our goal is to empower families in their journey towards learning, growth, and the cultivation of joyful lives together.

This article outlines how family therapy can help families like yours and explains who is best served by family therapy. 

What are the Goals of Family Therapy?

Successful family therapy comprises three goals:

1. Improving Communication Between Family Members 

This is a surefire method of enhancing the overall home environment. Communicating and listening effectively is a collaborative effort. Every individual in the family unit has input into how the family functions, and if communication is poor, it creates conflict and destroys emotional ties.

2. Setting Healthy Boundaries

Laying boundaries forms a crucial goal of family therapy. Boundaries set the tone for how others treat us and define roles and responsibilities for the family members. If boundaries are not fixed, there are inevitable repercussions; for instance, children feel they can take on the part of parents.

Boundaries determine our sense of self-worth, and in some instances, when boundaries are overstepped, it can result in the estrangement of the children from their families. Change is a constant, and it is impossible and unrealistic to expect families to always get along. 

3. Developing Empathy and Understanding

The third goal of family therapy is the development of empathy and fostering understanding of one another’s experiences and needs. This enables the family to weather the storms when times are tough. But making other family members feel seen, listened to, and understood boosts problem-solving abilities so the family can find the resources to withstand adversity.

The Role of the Therapist in Family Therapy

Therapy sessions might be led by a social worker, psychologist, or therapist trained in family therapy. Initially, the therapist talks to all family members to establish where the problems lie, when they started, how each family member views the issues, and how the conflict has been resolved.

The goals of family therapy and the therapist’s treatment plan – which is based on what they have gleaned from talking through issues with the family members – are not to blame any one party but to improve conflicts through better communication, problem-solving and by imparting new skills that will allow the families to interact more healthily. 

That said, where one person within the family unit has issues with drug or alcohol dependence, or an eating disorder, that family member should have individualized therapy before the family therapy takes place.

The Process of Family Counseling

The stages of counseling can be broken down:

  1. Building a relationship: The therapist establishes a rapport between the family members and him or herself
  2. Analysis: Therapists use their rapport with the client (family) to get them to express the conflicts and ways the family copes, so they can clarify and assess the situation.
  3. Setting goals: The therapist sets Counseling or treatment goals.
  4. Action plan: Interventions are designed and implemented.
  5. Overcoming the issues: The therapist tries to lead the family to a mutual and more accurate understanding of what is wrong. They achieve this through interventions, such as counteracting inappropriate denials and conflicts, introducing more positive images of family relations and more appropriate attitudes, and using confrontation and interpretation. The therapist also undermines resistance and reduces the intensity of conflict, guilt, and fear.

There are different schools of therapy, including Psychodynamic Therapy, Behavioral Methods, Structural Family Therapy, and Strategic Techniques, but although family therapy techniques vary, studies show that the highest rates success rates result from the client’s relationships with their therapist rather than the method of counseling employed by the therapist.

What Disorders Does Family Therapy Treat?

Referral reasons can indicate deeper problems that may be discovered during counseling. Family counseling topics that therapists regularly face and are able to assist in treating within family therapy sessions include:

  • Addiction or substance abuse – including alcohol, drug, and behavioral addictions.
  • A long-term illness such as death or cancer within the family
  • Children’s behavioral issues and struggles between siblings or between parent and child
  • Common conflicts that might occur within the family
  • Financial problems or arguments over money
  • Infidelity and other marital problems
  • Issues around caring for a family member who has special needs Issues with extended family members
  • Mental illness within the family
  • Multi-generational problems, for instance, if in-laws live in the same household
  • Issues relating to the school environment
  • Processing a familial or individual trauma, such as a house robbery
  • Inconsistency in parenting
  • Working through a separation or divorce and how to plan for amicable co-parenting

What Should You Be Aware of When it Comes to Family Therapy?

  • Sometimes it can create anxiety if one or more family members refuse to participate, and others want to see change as the family’s old functioning method is shrugged off.
  • Family therapy can change your perceptions of how the family functions, leading to negative feelings if other participants are unwilling to follow through with treatment or refuse to acknowledge unhealthy behavior patterns.
  • Family problems may initially be magnified and worsen as unhealthy habits are highlighted in therapy before they improve.
  • Challenges include exposing some family members to hurtful and painful issues they may not have known about. This can cause isolation if the family does not try to work together and support one another. (As counseling continues, these feelings should subside.)

Who Can Benefit from Family Therapy?

Family therapy can make a difference in any family whose collective aim is to improve their family dynamic and interactions, particularly when experiencing stress, grief, or anger. 

Couples or partners, their children, and even members of an extended family can learn to work through conflicts with heightened insight into one another’s needs, sharpened communication, and willingness to work through problems. Still, there are advantages and disadvantages to family therapy.

Since families operate within a far more comprehensive system of relationships, the skills learned during family therapy can also benefit relationships outside of the family unit.

One of the provisos is that everyone at the session must be willing to look critically at their actions and reactions within the family. If family members are guarded or unwilling to participate fully in therapy sessions, the outcome will be less successful.

Family Therapy Offered in Saginaw, Michigan

Whatever trials your family is facing, Guided Grace Family and Youth Services in Michigan afford you a safe space tailored to help reinforce your family’s foundations. Our therapists are well-versed in various therapeutic approaches, and in treating the family, they offer interventions and insights that support all family members and spur them into rebuilding trust that brings them closer together.

Don’t put off examining complex relational patterns.

Get in touch with us by calling on (989) 394-4428 or book a consultation online today!

Written by Guided Grace