What is family therapy?
While families are a basic building block of society, every family has its own set of features and behaviours. Family therapy is a type of counselling that exists to help us identify these features within the family group. It also gives us an opportunity to resolve any issues arising from them.
How can family therapy help?
We are all born into a family, traditional or otherwise. Within this group we learn the various customs and habits that help us grow and develop. Intentionally or not, those closest to us shape the way we interpret the world. They also form the way in which we relate to other significant people in our lives and to the environment around us. Although this influence is vital for our individual development, families sometimes provide an arena for disagreement and disharmony. This can often lead to tension and discord within the family group. The tensions can become problematic if left unresolved, while individual family members can feel they are held in low regard or have no voice.
This is when family therapy, also known as family counselling, might help. If successful, it allows everyone in the family to help reduce or reshape behaviours that are contributing to tensions or other unwanted outcomes.
What will happen in a session?
As a talking therapy, family therapy will involve open and safe discussion through which we will examine the relationship between different family members. As with individual therapy, every family is different so there can be no predefined counselling path. It really depends on what each family member brings to, and expects to get out of, therapy sessions. We may set up a framework for better communication, but as a person-centred therapist, I will not direct anyone in the family to take a specific course of action. Instead, I will listen to each family member and explore feelings and their role within the group. This will allow you to better understand the issues you are facing as a family, and to identify effective ways of communicating with each other and living together.
Counselling will give each family member a way to express themselves in an appropriate manner. It allows everyone to be heard, and also to reflect on their own part in the group. In other words, it’s a route by which we can appreciate the world as perceived by those closest to us.
Will all family members be involved?
For most of our time together in a session, I will listen to all family members as a group. This will allow me to find out more about the issues you brought to therapy, and to identify your strengths. It will also let me see how you work together and communicate with each other as a group. Sometimes I might listen to each family member as an individual, or just perhaps a single parent or a child.
What is the family therapist’s role?
As a therapist I will not take sides or favour on family member over another, nor will individual family members be blamed for behaviour. It’s more important that you complete your therapy sessions and feel like you are making progress, or at least that I can continue to help you move forward together as a family. This must be at your own pace however, and progress may not be seen immediately.
When we meet for the first time, I will also talk about some of the basic approach used in therapy. I will explain any broad rules used within our sessions, which are important when working together and discussing issues as a group. We will also consider how information disclosed within sessions is confidential. Therapy is a safe space in which you can talk about your feelings and emotions with honesty.
As with individual therapy, family therapy will be more successful when everyone involved is committed to the process. Even though we might discuss challenging situations or emotional conflict during our sessions, it’s part of the process of identifying solutions and tackling issues. We will always keep in mind that therapy benefits the whole family.
What to do next
If you want to know about how I work or would like to talk about family therapy in Walsall and the surrounding area, please call me on 07824 385338. You can also fill in the form on the Contact Me page. Any information you provide will be treated in the strictest confidence.
You can find out more about family therapy at Psychology Today.