One of the greatest predictors of happiness is the quality of connections to our family and friends. When we feel estranged, or in conflict with our loved ones, this can directly affect our mental health, self-esteem, productivity, and overall life satisfaction.
Investment in our family relationships can even help us live longer lives. So, there is no question that we should prioritize the health and well-being of our family relationships.
Despite the desire to have positive family dynamics, many families will experience times of conflict, hardship, and dysfunction. Even the best families can go through difficult times and desire a resource to help them overcome and be better than ever.
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What is Family Therapy?
Family therapy can be used as a therapeutic approach to a wide range of presenting concerns, problems, or frustrations. Yet, rather than each family member meeting one on one with an individual counselor, family therapy invites multiple family members to meet together to participate in the therapeutic process.
Some types of family therapy are used primarily to help facilitate the treatment of one person in the family. Other times, the family is in treatment to adjust how the family unit operates as a whole.
Family therapy can consist of the entire family unit or can be smaller dyads such as a mother and daughter, brother and sister, or son and step-mother.
In the initial family therapy sessions, all family members participating in treatment will meet with the counselor to discuss the history of the problem and discuss their stated objectives for treatment. During these initial sessions, family members rarely agree on the history of the problem and often have different outcomes in mind. But that’s okay!
Conflict in our recollection of historical events and conflict with stated goals is a common focus of initial therapy and does not always present a barrier to moving forward. As treatment progresses, the counselor will help the family communicate and listen in new ways. This will help them better understand the perspectives, hurt, and difficulty in the present and of the past.
Problems within the family are often not simple. If they were, the family likely would have already found a solution and moved forward a long time ago. While frustrating and complex, seasoned family therapists have the talent to help the family move from their cycle of distress and form new, healthy patterns and boundaries.
What are the Reasons to Seek Family Therapy?
Family therapy can be a helpful approach to almost any area of distress, conflict, or mental health concern. Yet, most commonly, people will keep family counseling for the following reasons:
- Parent-Child Conflict
- Sibling Conflict
- Support after a Traumatic Event
- Loss of Another Family Member
- Planning for an Aging Parent or Medical Issue
- Blended Family Dynamics and Step-Parenting
- Behavioral or Mood Difficulties in a Child
- Communication Difficulties with Adult Children
- Politics and Family
- Parenting through Divorce
What are the Benefits of Family Therapy
While there are many positives to traditional individual therapy, there are times where family therapy can present real advantages over simply meeting one on one with an individual counselor. These benefits can include:
Facilitating a better understanding of communication patterns and norms: When we’ve been surrounded by our families our whole life, it can be difficult to objectively see the negative patterns that have been established over time. Family therapy allows both the individuals and the counselor to see, first hand, the systems of distress and what solutions may actually work with the family.
Providing a safe place for families to discuss inflammatory topics: Many times we put off having hard conversations with our family members as we worry that certain topics may result in long-term damage to the relationship. However, in family therapy, there is more safety to bring up difficult topics as the therapist can help mediate communication and manage potential escalation.
Allowing the family to heal old wounds and break the negative cycles of distress: Some families live for years without a true resolution from past conflict and pain. Family therapy can help the whole family system overcome the barriers that have historically kept them stuck in the same negative cycle and finally achieve a new pattern of connection.
Receiving expert guidance to help solve complex problems: Many family members do not know the “right” steps to help a parent that is developing dementia or a loved one that may no longer be able to care for themselves. Complicated decisions such as these can be overwhelming for a family leading to conflict, anxiety, and indecision. Making these complicated decisions with someone that can provide expert guidance and perspective can be an invaluable resource for the family.
Seeking out a Family Counselor?
At Biltmore Psychology and Counseling we are passionate about helping families heal their distress and find the most adaptive ways to overcome the hardships they are facing. We understand how important healthy relationships are to our individual mental health and find so much reward in helping the family again be a source of support and safety for each individual family member.
Feel free to contact our office for more information on how each of our psychologists and counselors can help your family through their time of distress.
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It is very common to feel uncomfortable or a bit overwhelmed by the idea of doing family therapy. If you’re starting family therapy, there are some steps you can take to prepare for your experience.
A healthy family should be a safe haven for all individuals within the family system. Individuals should feel comfortable expressing their needs and anticipate that their needs will be appropriately met by the family. Family members should feel as though everyone in the family has their best interest at heart and will be willing to grow and change to meet future needs, hardships, and expansion of the family.
Dr. Melissa Estavillo is a Licensed Psychologist and founder of Biltmore Psychology and Counseling. With over 7 years of experience, she specializes in both individual and couples therapy in Phoenix and Scottsdale, AZ. She integrates complementary methodologies and techniques stemming from Emotionally Focused Theory, Psychodynamic Theory and Other Evidence Based Practices to offer a highly personalized approach tailored to each client.