Raising a family is not easy—and being a member of the family can sometimes be a struggle. Family therapy is based on the belief that the family is a unique social system with its own structure and patterns of communication, which are determined by many things—the parents’ beliefs and values, the personalities of all family members and the influence of the extended family, such as grandparents, aunts and uncles. The result of these variables is that each family develops its own unique personality, which is powerful and affects all of its members.
Anyone who has a condition that interferes with their life and the lives of the other family members may find family therapy beneficial. Usually, the better the family functions the lower the stress level for the person with the health problem. Family therapy has been successful in treating many different types of families in a variety of situations, including the following.
- The parents have conflict with their relationship.
- A child has behavior or school problems.
- Children or teens have problems getting along with each other (sibling rivalry)
- One family member has a long-term or chronic mental illness or substance abuse problem, such as severe depression or an alcohol use problem.
- Relationship issues (internally and externally)
- Growing up and the different challenges children are faced with.
- Job problems, such as unemployment, stress and problems on the job.
Family therapy is based on the concept that illness in one family member may be a symptom of a larger family problem.To treat only the member who is identified as ill is similar to treating the symptom of a disease, but not the disease itself. The possibility exists that if the person with the illness is treated and the family is not, another member of the family may become ill. This cycle will continue until the problems are examined and treated. Any change in one member of the family affects both the family structure and each member individually.
A family therapist will work with the members of a family to:
- Teach family members about how families function in general and, in particular, how their own functions.
- Help the family focus less on the member who has been identified as ill and look at the family as a whole.
- Help to identify conflicts and anxieties, as well as assist in developing strategies to resolve them.
- Strengthen all family members in order for them to work on their problems together.
- Teach ways to handle conflicts and changes within the family differently. Sometimes the way family members deal with problems makes them more likely to develop symptoms.
What Happens in Family Therapy
In therapy sessions, the family’s strengths are used to aid them in handling their problems. All members take responsibility for problems, and some individuals may need to change their behavior more than others.
Family therapy is an active type of therapy, and the members are often given assignments. For instance, parents may be asked to delegate more responsibilities to their children.
The number of sessions for family therapy varies depending on the severity of the problems and the willingness of the members to participate. With the therapist, the family sets mutual goals and discusses the length of time expected to achieve them. In addition, not all members of the family attend each session.
Family Therapy Before Problems Begin
Some families seek family therapy prior to a problem, such as when they anticipate a major change in their lives. For instance, a couple who has children from previous marriages may want to go to family therapy when they marry in order to help all members learn how to live together in harmony.
Settings for Family Therapy
1) A 15-year-old boy told his parents he thought of hurting himself. He admitted to feeling depressed for several months, because he wanted to be an actor and didn’t see the point in studying or attending school. His grades declined in his junior year, making him ineligible to participate in the drama club. In addition, he was having trouble fitting in and was hanging around with kids who skipped class and took drugs. His depressive symptoms included a sad mood, sleep difficulty, and decreased motivation, energy and concentration. When his girlfriend broke up with him, he cut himself with a razor superficially on the forearm and had thoughts of suicide.
2) A 16-year-old girl has an eating disorder, and it has caused many difficulties with the family. The family is in turmoil, because there are often battles at meal times, family gatherings and holiday celebrations.
When an individual has an eating disorder, the entire family is affected. According to Abigail Natenshon, a clinical social worker/therapist, 87 percent of eating disorder patients are children and adolescents under the age of 20. As many in this age bracket still live at home, the eating disorder develops and plays out within the family dynamic and often effects extended family and school environments. Family therapy is essential in an eating disorder treatment and to ensure everyone who is part of the family is cared for.
Being a member of a family is sometimes a challenge, and the professional therapists at Thrive Boson will work with you so won’t have to deal with family problems alone. The professional therapists at Thrive Boston have worked with hundreds of families to communicate better, understand one another and take a journey together to strive for happiness in the family. Family therapy may be what makes the difference. To schedule an appointment for Boston Family therapy today, call (617) 395-5806.