But the most important thing right from the start. In a family therapy session, you are the experts. You have all the skills you need to cope with the difficulties. Only sometimes these abilities are somewhat buried. Family therapy helps you to uncover these abilities and together you look for ideas on how to overcome the difficulties. Sometimes it is the lack of communication or misunderstanding within a family that causes more and more tension. Then together you will find ways to talk to each other differently and, above all, more clearly. Communication is so important because it creates closeness. Through it we know what is on the mind of the other person.
Who conducts family therapy?
Family therapy can be conducted by psychotherapists of various specialties, such as psychoanalysts and behavioral therapists. However, it is most often conducted by systemic psychotherapists. In Systemic Family Therapy, one does not look at the individual as the black sheep of the family, but expands the view to the entire family system. Very often it is adolescents or children who express the tensions in a family. They develop behavioral problems, get more poor grades at school, suffer from mental illnesses such as eating disorders, or behave more aggressively than before, to name just a few examples. Unfortunately, the focus is then too often placed only on the child or adolescent instead of looking at the entire family. In family therapy, it is assumed that this child expresses unfavorable behavioral or communication patterns of the family through his or her symptoms. Thus, it is not the child who needs treatment, but a change in these dysfunctional patterns within the family. It is not a matter of finding someone responsible for the problems, but of identifying unfavorable patterns of relationships and looking for solutions. The therapist does not see herself as the expert who prescribes a solution, but she seeks dialogue with you in order to develop strategies and perspectives together.
What are common reasons for family therapy?
Mental illness of a family member (depression, addiction, eating disorder
Chronic and life-threatening illnesses in the family
Trauma or loss within a family
Separations or marital problems
Birth of siblings
Long-term tense conflicts within a family
Difficulties in the context of adoption or in the growing together of patchwork families
What does the family therapist do?
The therapist is a neutral person who adds to the family system from the outside. From the outside, it is often easier to recognize the relationship patterns within a family and then to find new solution strategies together. Family therapy always works a little differently, depending on the therapist's specialization. What they all have in common, however, is that trust must be built between your family and the therapist. The therapist will ask many questions in the beginning, on the one hand to get to know the family situation better. On the other hand, this alone can be helpful for the family, since misunderstandings often occur when needs are not clearly addressed. So one of the goals is to change the communication within the family so that the relationship can improve as well. Furthermore, one goal is to expand the possibilities of perception, experience and action. In addition, the therapist will look at your resources, i.e. which characteristics help you to cope with demands. From this you can develop solutions for the current difficulties. Systemic therapists see you as experts of yourself. They see you as autonomous, self-reliant seekers of advice who, after the joint search for approaches to change, also want to and will actively change something.
Other methods in Systemic Family Therapy include the following:
Genogram: This is a detailed family tree that clarifies family history and the relationships among family members. Names, birth dates, important events and relationships are recorded.
Family Sculpture: This is where the family members present pose in the room in a way that expresses their relationship to each other. This is to make the relationship and the associated feelings, thoughts and perceptions more conscious. After the constellation, the family members discuss how they felt in the respective positions. This makes difficult relationship patterns visible, which can be worked on in the further course of therapy.
Family board: Here, too, the aim is to depict family relationships. However, here one uses figures on a board and places them according to one's own perception. Depending on which figures are used for the respective family members, it becomes clear, for example, how powerful one experiences someone (size ratios of the figures). The therapist will ask some questions about the constellation.
Reinterpretation: Here we try to see the events from a new perspective. Is the glass half full or half empty? Is the child's conspicuous behavior a problem or rather an opportunity and an indication of development possibilities?
Final intervention: At the end, the therapist once again summarizes everything that was jointly understood in the session. This provides suggestions for changing the ingrained patterns. The therapist also raises hypotheses, i.e. reflections on the relationship and communication patterns, and provides suggestions for action or a concrete task.
And how long does it take?
Family therapy is often a short-term therapy. Sometimes only a few sessions are needed, but sometimes it may be necessary to continue family therapy for years, depending on the underlying issue. At the end of family therapy, there is a final interview. In this conversation, you and the therapist look at what you can change and what warning signs there are to prevent the difficulties from creeping back in. Questions such as "What do you need to do to invite the problem back?" can be helpful. Family therapy thus provides suggestions for changing ingrained patterns. Only if you take action yourself afterwards will there be improvements in your life situation.
There are, however, a few exceptions when family therapy is not advisable and individual therapy is better preferred...such as when there are traumatic events or abuse caused by a family member.
If you are now thinking "Hmm...maybe family therapy is just what we need to bring our family back closer together.", then check out our therapists at WePractice to see if there is anyone you like.