I absolutely believe in families as the building blocks of society. I also believe that our happiness in our family is probably one of the most important factors in determining our overall happiness and even our mental health. It comes as no surprise then that I support useful tools like family counseling services to help prioritize, protect, and repair family relationships. If you are wondering how family therapy works or what are the family therapy benefits, this article is for you. It is designed to help answer questions about family therapy types and provide a few example family therapy activities so that you can decide it is right for you and your family situation.
I will also say that I have used family therapy at a few different times when I knew I needed help and I didn’t know how to fix things myself. It was such a relief to have a counselor guide us through those difficult times. Life sure can throw some curveballs! I am so thankful for our positive family counseling experiences. Therefore, I definitely encourage others to seek the help of professional counselors when they need guidance. It really helps you to organize your thoughts and feelings and communicate them effectively to solve issues.
What is Family Counselling?
Family counseling as a branch of psychological therapy has been around for almost a century, and with almost the utter acceptance of psychological therapy it has become a very common tool to improve the lives of many families. It is an umbrella term for family group therapy aimed to fix issues between couples and families as a whole.
Don’t be confused as it’s also called family counselling (Bristish), family therapy, marriage counselling, couple’s therapy etc. but as long as it’s given by a certified member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), it’s the same thing. Also, it doesn’t discriminate and has a broad definition of what a family is: same sex parents, a childless couple, extended family, and so on.
What is Family Therapy?
It’s important to understand the ambiguity and subtleties between therapy and counseling – even though they are interlinked and can’t really be completely distinct from one another. Therapy is a longer process that leans more to psychology, and counseling is not as in-depth as therapy and aims to deal with help with specific problems. For instance, dealing with grief, addiction, stress and such calls for counseling – ad hoc strengthening of the family unit to solve a specific problem, as is the case with strategic therapy (as you can read below). Dealing with depression, behaviors, and a wider range of chronic issues you might need a longer therapy that might incorporate more cognitive exercises.
What Can Family Counseling Help With?
Here are some of the issues that family therapy services are meant to help with: conflicts between family members, infidelity, death or illness in the family. It also tackles matters like separation, divorce, LGBTQ issues, addiction in the family, and caring for family members with special needs or mental illness. Family counseling can help address things like family conflicts, anger management issues or even sexual orientation issues. One of the most common reasons to visit a family therapist is emotional and behavioral difficulties in children. Keep on reading if you feel that your entire family can benefit from such a thing.
Family Therapy Types
As you investigate Family Counseling Services, keep in mind there are four main types of family therapy practiced today.
Bowenian Therapy is the main approach if individuals cannot or don’t want to involve another family member in the treatment, but not exclusive to that. It’s considered more cognitive and less practical, and based on triangulation – the necessity to vent to a third party when in conflict or distress, and differentiation – teaching the individual to differentiate himself from the family and see them as people detached from their role in the unit. Differentiation leads to less need to triangulate.
What is Structural Family Therapy? Well, the answer is in the name. Structural therapy aims to strengthen the family structure. It checks that the parents are in control, and that the children and parents don’t cross any appropriate boundaries. The therapist “joins” the family and observes their dynamics, and therefore enhances his ability to strengthen the family bonds.
Systemic Therapy focuses on the unconscious communications and the meaning behind their individual behaviors. The therapist will remain neutral and will let the family dive deeper into their problems.
What is strategic family therapy? Well, Strategic Therapy is perhaps the most popular type of therapy. This is largely because it is short and practical. The therapist assigns homework to the family members, which is supposed to change the way the family communicates and interacts with each other, as well as makes decisions. The therapist takes the power and authority in this type of treatment, thus allowing weaker family members to come forwards and communicate more effectively. This approach is also the most suited to online therapy compared to the other types.
Family Therapy Benefits
What are the benefits of family therapy and counseling?
Your family could highly benefit from therapy if you suffer from problems that family therapy can solve. Many families who underwent therapy report a better mutual understanding, especially of boundaries which are important for a healthy family. Communication is also highly improved which leads to better problem solving as a unit. Better empathy and reduced conflict is also reported.
It could especially help bringing the family together after death or crisis, reenlisting trust between family members, helping family members forgive each other, developing a supportive and positive environment, and bringing back family members who’ve been isolated.
How Family Therapy Works
Family therapy is a multidisciplinary field and employs exercises and techniques from behavioral, cognitive, and interpersonal therapy schools and more. Usually, this kind of therapy is between 5-20 sessions compared to traditional psychological therapy, and aims to solve things quickly, or at least lay the foundation for a healthy and functional family relationship. However, the more behavioral and chronic the problems are, expect a longer treatment.
Family Therapy Activities
Family therapists know the most effective way of dealing with challenging situations is make sure you are all active participants in your healing.
What kind of activities can you expect in a family therapy?
When you have young children or adolescents in your family, the usual therapy activities involve art and play as it can encourage parents and children to enhance communication between them. It also moves the discussion from the intellectual and abstract to the world of imagination and spontaneity. Furthermore, family therapy exercises help bypass the barriers currently apparent in both the parents and children.
Examples Of Family Counseling Services Activities For Young People:
This game intends to let family members share their emotions and is popular with kids and teenagers. A beach ball with words that describe feelings on it (sad, happy, lonely, stressed, etc) is thrown around, and once an individual catches it, he’s asked to describe the last time he felt like the word facing him. This game is an example of breaking barriers of talking about feelings, for children and adults alike.
This family therapy activity is especially good for children. Two family members face each other, and the one who’s taking the lead moves slowly while the other tries to copy him. It makes family members work with each other, and attune to one another.
The Miracle Question
each family member is asked in his turn, if a miracle was to happen at night, what will be the first thing they will notice when they wake up, that will tell them that they are now in a better world. This exercise is great for adults, but works for kids too. It allows each family member to show his desires and wishes.
The Colored Candy Game
Each family member gets 7 pieces of small and colorful candy, and asked to sort them by colors. Then each member will need to give words for each candy. For example, green – how your family has fun, yellow – words that describe your family, blue – things you’d like to improve about your family, and so on. A discussion will arise more often than not. At the end each member will need to tell what he learned, what took him by surprise, and how he will work to make changes. This is usually used as an ice breaker at the beginning of a therapy. The candies can be eaten after the answers are given by the way.
These play oriented techniques are used in child focused counselling and even with adults, and there are many like them. These family therapy activities allow children and adults to share their emotions with less shame, guilt, or discomfort. Therapy games change the usual roles and dynamics of the family in a controlled environment, and focus the discussion on certain issues needed to be addressed. Finally, it also allows the therapist to witness and follow your family dynamics. This is crucial for his or her success in helping you.
How to find a family therapist suitable for your needs?
You can ask your doctor to recommend a family counselor or therapist and this is the approach many people take. However, a more efficient approach is to search in the AAMFT directories for a suitable therapist for you. In many cases, especially if the counseling you’re seeking is not child focused, you can look for an online therapist in a reputable online therapy platform. These are more popular than ever (due to Covid-19 lockdowns). Another good idea before your initial appointment is to contact your insurance. They can help you determine if they cover family therapy and provide a list of who they work with.
If you don’t have insurance and you are not sure you can afford therapy, don’t let finances be a barrier. Affordable counseling is within your reach, it just make take a little more research. There are many counsellors who will work on a sliding scale so be sure to ask. Additionally, there are many religious organizations that will offer free services. If you can’t get your loved ones to go with you, individual therapy may be a good starting point.
Professional counseling therapy sessions can help make positive changes for the whole family unity through cognitive behavioral therapy. Healing relationship problems can help make a huge difference in your everyday life.
Would my family benefit from family counseling services?
If you read all the way here, the answer is most likely yes. Did you identify with some of the issues families face that are described in this post? Do you feel that your children have behavioral or emotional issues? Do you have trust issues with your partner? Seeking help isn’t a shameful thing. On the contrary, trying to save your relationship and family is brave! If you think there is a chance family counseling can improve your quality mental health, try it!