What is Family Therapy?
Teen mental health challenges are tough on the whole family. Family therapy provides an avenue through which family members can learn more about a loved one’s condition. What is family therapy? It’s a therapeutic modality that can be an extremely beneficial addition a teen’s ongoing mental health treatment.
Benefits and Types of Family Therapy
Scientists have repeatedly demonstrated the power of family therapy. Research on family therapy shows that it can be an effective supplemental treatment for youth with anxiety, depression, ADHD, substance abuse, and other mental health conditions.
There are various types of family therapy. Several of these modalities fall under the category of family systems therapy, based on psychiatrist Murray Bowen’s family systems theory.
- Strategic family therapy addresses specific problems.
- Structural family therapy looks at the family as a system of relationships, behaviors, and patterns.
- In multiple-family group therapy, several different families come together to learn from each other, with the guidance of a therapist.
- At Newport Academy, our primary family therapy approach is called Attachment-Based Family Therapy (ABFT). ABFT seeks to repair ruptures in the parent-child relationship.
Seven Things to Expect from Family Therapy
Once they get answers to the question, “What is family therapy?,” family members may have a number of additional questions regarding the process. Here are seven things to expect when beginning family therapy.
1. Feelings of Uncertainty
Before working with a family therapist, family members may feel nervous and resistant. However, family therapy—just like individual therapy and couples therapy—is most effective when each individual is committed to the process. In order to garner everyone’s support, it helps to first ensure that everyone understands how it works.
To help family members understand why the therapy process will be worthwhile, parents can provide examples of difficult situations, conflicts, and emotional challenges that the family might be able to navigate more smoothly with the guidance of an expert. It’s important to stress that the entire family can benefit from the process.
2. An Extensive Introductory Process
During family therapy, a mental health professional will help family members learn how to work together to support each person’s mental health. Therefore, family members should expect to spend a significant amount of time helping the therapist get to know everyone in the family. Hence, the family therapist will likely ask about common sources of stress or conflict in the family, any histories of trauma and abuse among family members, and other personal details that can be helpful in determining family therapy goals.
In order for family therapy to be productive, everyone involved must be honest and committed to the process. It is important for all family members to be attentive during each session and to openly share their thoughts and emotions.
4. The Creation of a Plan
The family therapist’s goal is to guide a family in assessing its problems and developing constructive strategies to overcome them. In doing so, the therapist will help family members develop their own vision of a stable and happy family unit. Furthermore, the therapist will support the family in creating a roadmap to get there. In some cases, a family therapist may begin this process by having each participant sign a contract promising to communicate respectfully during each session.
5. A Focus on Conflict Resolution and Communication
During therapy sessions, family members discuss the family’s significant conflicts and how they are typically addressed within the family unit. Then, with the help of the therapist, they look at how they might improve the way they communicate and work through challenges.
Family therapy can help family members learn how to share their thoughts and emotions clearly and respectfully. In addition to teaching healthy ways to resolve disagreement, therapy also assists individuals in learning how to advocate for themselves and their opinions in a constructive way. Family members spend time working on communication skills, such as speaking up politely or knowing when to say no.
6. A Closer Examination of a Teen’s Mental Condition
When participating in family therapy as a part of a teen’s broader individual therapy and treatment strategy, parents and other family members will have an opportunity to learn about the teen’s mental health or addiction in depth. This process will help the entire family better understand and relate to the teen. Additionally, it can be effective in mitigating stress or concerns regarding the teen’s condition.
To truly benefit from family therapy, the entire family must be committed to integrating the lessons and insights from each session into their daily life. Moreover, the therapist will most likely assign tasks and family therapy goals for the family to work toward between sessions. These tasks might include making note of situations in which family members successfully employ coping skills or conflict resolution strategies.
Therefore, each family member can play a part in building a healthy, happier life together.
Crane, D & Morgan, Triston. (2007). The efficacy and effectiveness of family therapy.