It is fairly common for families to have disagreements and glitches in communication. In many cases, disputes between spouses, fights between parents and children, and arguments between siblings can be resolved over a period of time by talking and coming to a mutual agreement. But other circumstances, such as an illness, substance abuse, or infidelity, can tear a family apart.
This kind of turbulence can push these families to seek the help of a family therapist, and in the U.S., these therapists treat about six million patients every year. Family therapy is considered a form of psychotherapy that deals with intimate problems within a familial unit, and helps to improve the relationship and communication between family members. These therapists use a combination of several different counseling techniques, including structural family therapy, which analyzes the family structure as a whole, transgenerational therapy, which looks at the effect of age differences in familial conflict, and strategic therapy, which focuses on the patterns of behavior and the relationship between members of a family.
Family therapists can either meet with individual members of a family, the entire family as a whole, or utilize a combination of both. The idea is to allow each person to express his or her concerns, and address the impact of these feelings on the group. For example, if one child suffers from an eating disorder, or depression, or could use help for drug addiction, working with a family therapist can help every member to understand how his or her behavior can either hinder or aid treatment for that child. Also, by analyzing relationship patterns within the family, therapists can identify what actions and words could be supportive, or detrimental, to each member’s emotional development.
These therapy techniques could become crucial for teens and their families, as illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders are often prevalent during adolescence. In addition, about 40% to 50% of couples in the U.S. divorce, according to the American Psychological Association. Marriage and family counseling can perhaps help couples work through their problems before opting for divorce, and a permanent split could require family counseling because of its effect on their children.
These statistics may be linked to the rapid growth of this profession. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that from 2012 to 2022, the number of marriage and family counselors will increase by 29%, and also reports that there are already 166,300 of these counselors in practice today.
With more than 800,000 children seeking a family therapist’s expertise every year, and several families visiting these professionals as well, BLS’s prediction is critical to the health of families across the nation. The techniques and analysis family therapists use could change the way families communicate, improve the quality of each family member’s relationship with one another, and ultimately teach the entire family to work harmoniously as one unit.