A Friend is Not a Family Therapist

Updated May 17, 2019

Reviewer Lauren Guilbeault

What Is Family Therapy?

Family therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on the family unit and how members of that unit relate to one another and communicate. A family therapist is trained to work with families and help them form a healthy dynamic so that they can function well. You might want to talk to your friend about your family, and you might believe that because they're an empathetic person, they'll be able to help you understand the complex dynamics of your family, but as caring and nurturing as your friend is, they aren't a family therapist. A family therapist knows how to mediate problems between members of the family and help them resolve a conflict.

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What Is A Family Therapist Trained To Do?

A family therapist is trained to understand the complexities that families go through and help them mediate conflicts. They know how different relationships in the family can become difficult over time, and how some members of the family unit can have a falling out, but with the help of a family therapist, they can potentially resolve conflict and remedy relationships that have been damaged over time. A family therapist knows how to address marital issues. If you're talking to your friend about issues in your marriage, they will understand, and they'll try to be empathetic, but they won't get how complex and intricate the problems in your marriage are or how to help you solve them because they aren't trained in marriage and family counseling. A family therapist may be a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, or an LMFT, who knows how to mediate between couples, and it's not reasonable to expect your friend to be your couples counselor because it's not appropriate and they're not trained to do that.

What Is The Goal Of Family Therapy?

The goal of family therapy is to strengthen the bonds between the members of a family unit, and it aims to help families overcome conflict and improve communication. Family therapy opens a dialogue that the family therapist begins and the family members continue. It's a safe place for members of a family to voice their concerns so that they feel heard. The family therapist can help each member of the family unit understand the different personalities that exist within it and resolve the conflict that might exist between them.

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What Are The Benefits Of Family Therapy?

Unlike individual therapy, family therapy focuses on every member of the family that is present. A family therapist has to be unbiased and mediate a conflict between everyone who's present during a session. It's beneficial because you're not talking about the issues that you have with your family in a vacuum. Instead, you're able to address it then and there. A family therapist can explain a family members point of view to you and vice versa. In individual therapy, you can talk about an issue within your family, but you might not remember everything your therapist tells you once you leave a session. Your friends aren't able to mediate a conflict between your entire family because that's not what they're there to do and they're not trained in that way.

What To Expect In Family Therapy

Expect that all members of your family will hear your voice. Your family therapist wants to create an unbiased environment in which everyone gets to say what they think and feel. It's not about you, and it's not about any other sole individual in your family. It's about coming to a compromise, and families need to work together to function. If they don't, it becomes a dysfunctional dynamic. If your family isn't functioning well, a family therapist can help you understand problems that arise and work to solve them.

Online Counseling

Online counseling is an excellent place to receive family therapy. You and the members of your family can candidly speak with an online therapist and talk about what's working and what isn't, and you can decide what to do next. Don't be scared if you have a conflict with a family member - or be scared, but understand that a family therapist wants to help you. Rather than talking to your friends about your complex family issues, speak to an LMFT. Search the network of online therapists at BetterHelp and find the right fit for you who can help you resolve these conflicts.


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