Family Therapy focuses on relationships within the family unit and takes place with other family members present. Family therapy may be the primary focus of treatment, or it could be used as a supplement to individual therapy.
In Family Therapy, the family is seen as a “whole” system, rather than just as the sum of its individual members. As with individual and group therapy, Family Therapy is used to approach a wide variety of therapeutic goals. Rather than viewing problems as owned and caused by a particular family member (also called an “identified patient”), Family Therapy helps to identify the ways that relationship and individual problems are caused and maintained by the family dynamics. For example, if a child is having academic and social problems, the focus will be on identifying the family patterns that have contributed to the child acting out, rather than on working intra-psychically with the child alone.
Virginia Satir, Salvador Minuchin, Murray Bowen, and Milton Erickson are just a few of the many theorists who have contributed to Family Therapy and there are several approaches within the field of family counseling services. If you are in Family Therapy, you may be seeing a therapist who favors a theoretical modality such as Structural Therapy, Conjoint Therapy, or Strategic Therapy.
The Structural approaches look at the patterns of communication, including the smaller “subsystems” within the family. This approach may explore how parents relate, as well as how the siblings relate, in addition to the bigger picture of the whole family.
A therapist who favors Conjoint approaches will consider the various “roles” that each person plays in the family, in addition to the communication styles (both verbal and nonverbal) within it. How the family interacts as a whole is also explored.
Strategic Therapists approach Family Therapy with the belief that families often experience challenges at significant points in their life cycle, such as in times of major transition. The Strategic Therapist often explores the “role” of the primary issue wanting to be changed, i.e., the function that the issue plays within the family itself. It is common for a therapist who uses Strategic approaches to offer direct, alternative behaviors to perform in between sessions, in order to help shift the individual and family patterns.
Our therapists use family counseling to involve all or some family members of the loved one seeking treatment. By sharing concerns, family members can feel empowered to make needed changes, to better understand what needs to change in order to create a healthier way of life, and how the family can make those changes. We encourage the family members to explore their perceptions, values and emotions in a safe, supportive process as they benefit from education on the disease of addiction and how it affects everyone in the family. We often use a communication model, focusing on generational family patterns, trauma, family interactions, and contributing factors that may be core issues for addiction. We also encourage families to avail themselves of the 12 Step recovery process to support ongoing healing. Issues that we address include the role of denial and boundary issues; the patterns within relationships, communication, and roles.
You and your therapist will discuss the best course of action that fits your needs and discuss how often you will meet.