Family Therapy Techniques: How Family Counseling Works
What is Family Therapy?
Family therapy is a type of systemic therapy that works to improve stress or other conditions of distress by strengthening interaction between families. Like structural family therapy, It is often characterized as strength-based treatment because it aims to adjust problems or patterns, rather than to treat the problems as residing inside a person.
Family therapy is less about having everyone in the same room, and more about the methods used to fix problems within your unit. Your therapist may choose to have you all together, or in some cases, they may alternate speaking among the parties involved.
For example, if therapy is sought after as a result of a child misbehaving at school, the therapist may choose to have everyone present at the first family therapy session, and then speak only to the child or parents following that. The idea is to make small changes and adjustments to remedy negative emotions or behaviors.
There are several different marriage and family therapy programs. Each one has its own characteristics that make it right for each person.
If you are not comfortable with others being present in the room with you while therapy is in session, the Bowenian approach to family therapy might be the right one for you. This form of therapy focuses on two areas: triangulation and differentiation.
Triangulation refers to the tendencies we have to involve a third party when something is going wrong in our lives. We often feel better when someone else takes our side. Although this momentarily alleviates anxiety, it is usually not a healthy response to a disagreement because it can alienate the other person. If you struggle with triangulation, you might do this as a way to divert anxiety or conflict.
The third person helps you to calm yourself and gives you tips on how to resolve the issue.
Family therapy will aim to place the therapist in the place of the third party. But instead of suggesting direction solutions to your issue, your therapist may encourage you and your family to find ways to manage your anxiety. This strategy prioritizes strengthening your ability to find your own resolutions internally and in a healthy way even outside of family therapy.
Differentiation is something that your therapist will help you and the family work on internally as well. Many people who seek out family therapy may be struggling with issues that are brought on by how they see the world. They may be exhibiting volatile emotional behavior as a result of this and are not sure how to handle their feelings or views.
The goal of differentiation in Bowenian family therapy is to free oneself from these struggles. It is the process of learning how to form your own opinions and live your life in a way that is free from the negative influences that may come from your family. There is also emphasis placed on doing this in a way that allows you to continue with healthy and strong relationships with your family as well.
Once you have mastered this method, you will be able to better handle family issues, recognize your role in the problem, and use this knowledge to react differently in the future.
Structural Family Therapy
One of the other types of family therapy techniques is called Structural Family Therapy. This approach is a good option for those whose problems may be resolved by reorganizing how roles and power are distributed among your family unit.
This form of family therapy is most commonly used in situations where a child is involved. The therapist will begin by drawing a chart of your family and noting how the relationships are between each of you. Once positions of power are identified, during family therapy, your therapist can identify what changes need to be made to fix the problems that you are experiencing.
This method of therapy was developed based on the belief that the root of many childhood problems comes not from the child himself, but from issues within the family unit that go unsolved.
The idea of structural family therapy is to restructure the family once key issues are identified. In this type of family therapy, your therapist could have you participate in role-plays, acting out problematic situations that occurred in the months or weeks before your session. At times, your therapist may appear to take certain sides to express certain viewpoints. This is a method used in this type of therapy to break up negative patterns and to promote a healthier family dynamic.
Additionally, problems within a family could come from an uneven amount of power, such as one parent making all of the decisions and excluding the other parent, or it could even come from a child having the power in the family. No matter which issue you are facing, reaching out to a mental health professional such as a therapist may help you to restructure your family life.
It is all about balance in this school of thought. You want everyone to feel comfortable with how the power is distributed, and it must be distributed appropriately to maintain a healthy and happy balance within the unit.
Strategic Family Therapy
Strategic family therapy is perfect for families that seek a potentially quick approach to solving their problems in a short time. This therapy works by using specific methods that are tailored specifically toward the problems that you and your family are struggling with.
If you see a therapist that practices strategic family therapy, you may find this person to be akin to a life coach or a referee. The premise of this type of therapy does not concern itself with where you have been or what you have gone through. The goal is to figure out where you are now, and then make a plan to address the problem quickly and efficiently.
In this type of family therapy, it is common that your treatment plan will begin by identifying problems that can be fixed. You will then move on to setting goals and your therapist will work out pathways for you to be able to reach those goals. Once you get to this point, your therapist will observe the responses you and your family show to meeting these goals. Based on these observations, the time will come to evaluate the outcome of the family therapy as a whole.
A licensed therapist in family therapy will be highly involved and hands-on in your treatment. They should remain actively interested in your well-being and will do all they can to make sure the outcome you get from this type of therapy is a long-lasting and positive one.
The best thing about strategic family therapy is how personal and tailored it can be to your family. If you are seeking options for family therapy techniques, you may benefit from trying out this process with a licensed therapist.
Systemic Family Therapy
Systemic Family Therapy or Family Systems Therapy is different from the other popular forms in the sense that it classifies family problems as coming from the subconscious of the family rather than the purposeful actions that are being taken.
The main concept behind this form of family therapy is that conflict within the family comes from interlocked issues that may lie beneath the surface. This is to say that we have connections and conflicts that happen on a subconscious level that could be causing many of the family issues that we experience that affect everyone's mental health.
Unlike Structural Therapy, Systemic Family Therapy does not believe power can belong to one person or a group of people within the family unit. The idea is that this "game" perpetuates problems, doing so without making itself known to the people participating in this type of therapy.
If you choose to engage in the systemic model of family therapy techniques, your counselor or therapist may help you to unravel and uncover the subconscious issues and bring them out into the open. They can help you to understand the cycles or rituals (I.E. "games") that you are participating in. Once you bring the problems to the surface, they are more easily dealt with through family therapy.
One of the things that attracts so many people to Systemic Family Therapy is its way of offering a new and fresh perspective to the issues that many families are experiencing. If you have tried just about every other form of therapy to no avail, this method may be just the right thing for you.
If you are just starting to think about family therapy, or if you are considering other options in family therapy strategies, there is a wealth of information available to you. Sometimes, it can be overwhelming to try and understand many of the rationales behind these family therapy strategies. If you would like to learn more about family therapy, you may find that speaking with a licensed therapist can give you the tools you need to make well-educated decisions. Online counseling in the form of family therapy is available not just for those who are living with mental health disorders, but also for those who seek answers to personal questions and issues in life. The world is increasingly interconnected through technology. Behavioral studies have pointed out that the use of technology in psychological care, such as text messaging and emails, may help enhance personalized care for those who seek psychological services for mental health problems. One study found that more than half of people who participated in the study overcame initial concerns to communicate openly with their therapists.
Telehealth in the realm of psychotherapy can be an effective catalyst among licensed professionals, treatment plans, and those seeking guidance and advice. Online sessions with a licensed mental health professional have the potential to yield great results if you are unable or not yet ready to attend in-therapy sessions. Most online platforms offer flexible communication options, such as video conferencing and live chatting, so you can pick which option best suits your preferences. Additionally, online therapy does not limit you to one counselor for a certain time. There are many trained and qualified therapists whose backgrounds you can evaluate to see if they may be right for you.
If you are interested in learning more about online counseling but are not sure where to start, consider using resources offered by BetterHelp. Read below for some user testimonials of those who used BetterHelp:
“Mari takes the time to learn about myself and my family. She asks questions that provide extra details so she can better understand what it is I'm going through. She also talks to me as a friend. We talk about family and weekend trips. It makes me feel more comfortable talking to her.”
“I started with Amy back in June, I was a little nervous about starting to see a therapist, because I had never done that before. Amy immediately put me at ease. I was having a lot of issues in my personal life and issues with my family and Amy has helped me tremendously. I could not be happier with Amy. She is very kind, understanding and every single session we have had, I have taken something very helpful away with me. Our sessions have been more helpful to me than I could possibly explain here. Anyone lucky enough to get paired with Amy will not be disappointed.”
Below are some commonly asked questions on this topic:
What are the techniques used in family therapy?
Family therapy uses a few different techniques to help families relate to each other and reach their goals. These family therapy techniques include:
- Bowenian family therapy
- Strategic family therapy
- Structural family therapy
- Systemic family therapy
These specific family therapy techniques can also utilize ideas and concepts from other popular psychotherapy methods used by mental health professionals such as psychodynamic and cognitive-behavioral techniques.
What are the four stages of family therapy?
Family therapy can be broken down into four stages:
- Preparation - the family therapist will help family plan a course of action
- Transition - family will begin to realize and accept the issues and the therapist will assess how to fix them
- Consolidation - family are committing to putting the therapy techniques into practice
- Termination - the family prepare to disengage and end treatment and learn how they can retain what they’ve learned and maintain healthy family functioning
What is family therapy best?
Family therapy is best for families looking to address and overcome challenges that can affect their home environment. The benefits of family therapy can assist with solving family problems, like coping with mental illness, improving conflict management, and setting boundarie.
However, while family therapy is often used by families who want to learn how to address emotional problems, people don’t need to be in a dysfunctional family unit to enjoy family therapy techniques and what they can offer. Families still have a lot to gain from family therapy simply by becoming better communicators, learning problem solving skills, and gaining a different perspective, and a healthy family still can find ways to have a better functioning home environment.
What are the types of therapy techniques?
There are many therapy techniques out there that are designed for specific issues like addressing mental health problems, but as mentioned before and throughout this article, the types of family therapy that are meant for solving family problems are Bowenian family therapy, strategic family therapy, structural family therapy, and systemic family therapy.
What are the techniques and benefits of family therapy?
The family therapy techniques mentioned above can help the family unit cope with any issue that can affect the family dynamic in any household.
Family therapy stresses the importance of communication and problem-solving skills training as these are essential for not just one, but the whole family system. When the entire family is on the same page, the family functions optimally and can continue to do so after family counseling ends by using the techniques employed throughout the journey.
What techniques are used in Bowen family therapy?
Bowenian family therapy is a technique used by family therapists for families looking to have a third-party perspective regarding their family system. Triangulation and differentiation are two of the main techniques in Bowen family therapy that a marriage and family therapist can use to help the family solve their problems.
How do you structure a family therapy session?
In order for a family therapy session to function as intended, certain rules and boundaries need to be put in place by you and the other family involved and enforced by the family therapist who is assisting them.
What are the stages of the family life cycle?
The family life cycle can be described as the following stages:
- Independence or Leaving Home
- Families with young children
- Families with adolescent children
- Families with adult children who can be independent and have children
- Elderly family
From here the family cycle simply repeats itself.
What are the three goals of family therapy?
The three goals of family therapy that family therapists can help each family achieve are:
- Improving communication and problem-solving skills
- Address problems affecting the family dynamic
- Strengthen the family bond and reinforce family roles
By attending sessions, family therapy offers families a way to create a stronger family system and a better functioning home environment which benefits the mental health of everyone involved.
What do you talk about in family therapy?
Like other therapy sessions, family therapists are open to talk about any concerns you and your family are going through during family therapy. There might be mental health problems, constant unmanaged conflict or you might be dealing with grief or preparing for major life changes, like having children and expanding the family. Whatever the issue is, a qualified family therapist will guide individuals in the right direction to having a happier and healthier relationship with their families.