Types of Family Therapy - Structural Family Therapy, Group Therapy And More

Family therapy focuses on intimate relationships between family members as an important element of the psychological health of each member of the family. The aim is to nurture the development of each person within the family, and the development of the family dynamic as a whole. Family therapy techniques often involve a psychotherapist meeting with several members of the same family group during the same period of time, both in individual sessions and as a group. Family therapy history in the West can be traced back to 1920s England when social workers began working with family groups. Family therapy emerged as a formal area of study, in which family therapy theories began to be developed, in the 1940s and 1950s.

Families who have gone through crises such as bereavement, divorce, etc. may turn to a family therapist for support. In some cases, family therapy may be recommended as a preventative measure, for example, if you have reason to believe that some or several members of your family are at risk of developing emotional problems due to external circumstances.

Types Of Family Therapy

There are numerous types of family therapy, and your psychotherapist will use his professional judgment to decide which type, or which combination of types, is most suitable for your family. In some cases family therapy sessions may be conducted in your home; at other times sessions may be held at your therapist's offices. Sometimes your therapist may conduct group therapy sessions with you face to face, while professional observers watch from behind a one-way window. They help your therapist to analyze and interpret your therapy sessions.

Family Systems Therapy

Also referred to as systematic family therapy, this approach to counseling families views all problems as being related in some way to the family as a whole, rather than to just one individual member of the family. For example, if a slightly older sibling has gone back to bed wetting after the birth of a new baby brother or sister, a therapist using a systematic approach will talk to the family to identify the relationships and attitudes of everyone involved - then he or she may suggest areas in which family routines, interactions, etc. could be changed in the hope of a positive outcome. The therapist may take a trial and error approach - suggesting changes, and then, if these don't work out, suggesting something else. Family members will be encouraged to identify areas for change themselves, without attributing blame for any problems to any one individual.

Structural Family Therapy

A therapist taking a structural approach to family therapy will, by talking to the family members, attempt to gain an overall picture of the history and structure of the family (e.g. the hierarchies in husband-wife and parent-child relationships). The therapist will then try to help the family members see how this structure and these hierarchies may be contributing to both negative and positive family interactions. In this way, the family may be able to find ways to make its structure more flexible, allowing all members of the family to contribute to the process of solving any problems they may be experiencing.

Learn More

If you're interested in learning more about family therapy, you could consult a family therapy journal for practitioners, such as the American Journal of Family Therapy (published five times per year). However, unless you have some professional or academic background in psychotherapy, you might be better off researching some of the many family therapy websites aimed at parents and families, and not at professional psychotherapists.

Does Family Therapy Work?

Many families benefit hugely from family therapy, but that doesn't mean the road to success is always easy. Family therapy requires the cooperation of several distinct individuals. It can be difficult to integrate reluctant teenagers into the process, or a family member who is suffering from alcohol or drug addiction. After one or two initial sessions, your therapist will have a clearer idea of whether or not he will be able to help you.

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