Family therapy is a form of psychological therapy that helps family members to resolve conflicts, better their relationships and improve communication. Therapy for families is premised on the belief that the family unit is a unique social system with its own methods of communication and structure. According to this model of therapy, patterns are determined by a variety of things including the personality of each family member, beliefs and values taught by the parents, and the influence of extended family members. As a result, it is believed that each family is unique.

Therapy for families is given by a registered psychologist and is usually a short-term commitment. Family therapy sessions can include all members of a family who are willing and able to participate. Sessions will teach the family to deepen their connection so that they are able to cohesively navigate through stressful periods.

Why have family therapy?

A family may choose to go for therapy for a specific issue that they are facing, such as constant conflict between children and parents, or to improve strained relationships within the family. In the case of mental illness, family therapy can help teach a family how to cope and best support each other and the individual affected. Generally, the more functional a family, the lower the stress level for the individual affected by mental illness. In brief, therapy is useful for families who are experiencing grief, stress, anger or conflict of any kind.

It is also useful to seek help in the form of family therapy in anticipation of a problem or major life change. Family therapy concepts can also be applied to individual therapy sessions where the issues being discussed stem from family problems or patterns.

What to expect from family therapy

Typically, family therapy is conducted with several family members present in each session, however, group sessions can run along side individual sessions for some family members depending on the case.  Each session usually takes place for about an hour, and it is usually around a six-month commitment. Although, how often a family goes for therapy and for how many months, will depend on the family’s specific situation and what the psychologist feels would be best for the family’s case.

During family therapy, families learn problem solving techniques, how to effectively express their thoughts and emotions,  as well as explore family roles, behavioural patterns, and issues that result in conflict within the family. Moreover, the family will learn how to work through these issues constructively through identifying the family’s strengths and weaknesses.

It is important to understand that family therapy won’t make family conflicts or issues disappear, but it can help a family to better understand each other, as well provide the tools needed to work through and cope with challenging situations. Family therapy is useful in strengthening family relationships and in supporting families through a crisis, especially when used alongside other forms of treatment in the case of mental illness or other serious disorders. It is important that all family members are willing to go to therapy and put in the work needed, in order for the therapy to be successful.