Can Family Therapy Improve Your Family Dynamic?

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated March 15, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Various factors can affect a family dynamic, including communication, child health, marital satisfaction, and parenting styles. When a family dynamic becomes dysfunctional, it can be challenging to cope with daily life. 

If you and your family hope to improve your dynamic, bond more profoundly, or learn more about family attachment, a family therapist may be able to offer value. Family therapists are professionals trained to offer structured therapy and support to families for various topics. A family member does not have to have a mental illness or diagnosis to see a therapist. Family therapy can also be used as a tool to gain insight into healthier interpersonal patterns. 

Have You Been Wondering How To Make Your Family Unit Stronger?

What Is A Family Specialized Therapist?

In individual forms of therapy, the therapist personalizes the session to their one client's thoughts, feelings, or wishes. However, in family therapy, the attention and focus are on the family unit as a whole or divided between each family member. A family therapist works with various family structures, including families with young children, couples with in-laws, polyamorous families, adult children and their parents, and other formats. 

A family therapist can help families learn to interact with each other healthily. If disagreements or conflicts arise in the session, the therapist can act as a mediator and provide skills to practice during their time together. They are a non-biased third person that offers research-backed support to help families meet their goals. For many families, those goals include improving the family dynamic, communicating efficiently, or improving bonds. 

Why Do Families Reach Out For Therapy? 

There are various reasons a family might sign up for therapy, including the following: 

  • Divorce or separation 
  • The loss of a family member 
  • Adoption or foster care 
  • Finances 
  • Houselessness
  • Communication challenges 
  • Polyamorous dynamics 
  • A child struggling with mental illness or a disability
  • Terminal illness
  • Anger concerns 
  • Substance use disorders*
  • A significant life decision
  • Chronic family stress
  • Work-related issues
  • An adverse experience or traumatic occurrence 

Therapists can help families identify problems, set goals, and learn how to meet them. In some cases, families might attend sessions if one individual is experiencing a problem and the others want to support them healthily. For example, a child might be experiencing bullying due to a disability. In therapy, the child's parents can learn how the child is feeling and what they can do to offer support. 

You can also visit a therapist if two or more family members have concerns. Unhealthy forms of communication, dysfunctional behaviors, or family-wide habits may be discussed in therapy. Talking with a family therapist can help you and your family learn to communicate more effectively and start improving the relationship. If you're experiencing constant arguments, uncomfortable conversations, or isolation, your therapist can help you. 

*If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources.

How To Get The Most Out Of Family Therapy 

Below are a few methods to get the most out of family therapy when trying to improve a family dynamic. 

Find A Counselor Everyone Likes 

When seeking a family therapist, try to find a therapist who makes the whole family feel comfortable. If one individual feels uncomfortable or disrespected, they may struggle to find value in sessions. Therapists that practice active listening, value each client's perspective, and ensure a comfortable and safe environment can help you get the most out of your therapy sessions. 

Have A Consultation 

Before scheduling appointments with a therapist, you might benefit from a quick consultation so that each family member can give input. After the consultations, take a group vote on the therapist you'd like to visit. You can also write a list of questions for each counselor as you decide on the fit. 

Be Honest And Actively Listen 

Once you start sessions, you may get the most out of therapy by being honest, willing, and open to discuss the concerns you're there to discuss. At times, family therapy can be challenging, and conflicts may arise. Try not to interrupt others who are speaking, and practice active listening skills. Active listening involves listening to understand instead of listening to respond. Once a family member has spoken, repeat what they said to ensure you understood, and respond directly to their concern. You can then speak about your concerns when it's your turn. 

Participate In Activities 

Your therapist might also suggest activities that feel uncomfortable, such as roleplaying or narrating a past conflict. In these cases, try to participate in the activities willingly. Refusing to take part in a therapeutic activity may cause treatment delays. The therapist is prompting these activities because they have been proven to work for other families. Giving them a chance can help you have a rewarding experience with your counselor. 

Ask Your Children For Their Input (If Applicable) 

If you are attending child and family counseling or therapy with your children, regardless of their age, talk to them about how they feel about the therapist, what they need to feel respected, and what they want to discuss with the therapist. Continue having these conversations throughout the process. Children might not always bring up their opinions, but therapy can be a significant step for them, and checking in can ensure you're hearing their feedback. 

How Effective Is Family Therapy In Improving Family Dynamics? 

Many studies have found family therapy effective. One study on structural-strategic family therapy found it effective in repairing alliances between teens and their parents in dysfunctional family environments. Another study found that families attending family therapy were less likely to reach out to a healthcare provider for mental health-related incidents or crises.

Effectiveness and results can vary per family. However, family therapy is a research-backed method. Regardless of your family makeup, consider reaching out to a therapist to learn more about how you might benefit. 

Have You Been Wondering How To Make Your Family Unit Stronger?

Counseling Options 

In modern psychology, various forms of therapy are available to families, couples, and individuals. You can find a family therapist by searching for family therapy counseling online, reaching out for a referral from your doctor, or visiting a local mental health clinic. You can also consider online options if you're interested in couples counseling or individual therapy. 

With online therapy, you can connect with your therapist from anywhere with an internet connection. If you're attending as a couple, you don't have to be in the same room or house to talk to a therapist together. In addition, you can continue to take advantage of therapy while on vacation or sick at home. 

Studies back up the effectiveness of this method by showing that many individuals and couples found online forms of treatment as effective as in-person methods for addressing family dynamics where chronic stress or mental health conditions were present. Through a platform like BetterHelp for individuals or ReGain for couples, you can be matched with a therapist within 48 hours. Your therapist will be matched to you based on the information you include during sign-up, such as your symptoms, your goals for treatment, and the type of therapist you want to meet with. If you want to meet with a therapist to discuss family dynamics, you can do so as an individual or couple.  


If you think your family could benefit from seeing a therapist, find a counselor specializing in family therapy online or in your area. Take your time finding a therapist and ask questions. Regardless of your symptoms, concerns, or conflicts, family therapy is designed to take a personalized approach to help families bond and regain a healthy family dynamic. You're not alone in your concerns, and support is available.

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