Key Takeaways

  • If members of your family have difficulty discussing emotions or if your family is navigating a major life change, consider seeking family therapy.
  • Family therapy teaches family members how to strengthen their relationships, manage conflict, and improve their family bond.
  • Most families can benefit from family therapy, but it may not be the right fit if people are unwilling to participate in treatment or if there are ongoing safety concerns within the family.

Family therapy helps people identify and address mental, emotional, and behavioral problems within their family. In family therapy, the term “family” encompasses a range of relationships. It can refer to a nuclear family, grandparents and other extended family members, or a more specific relationship (like a mother and daughter).

With the support of a family therapist, you can learn how your family dynamic, which includes things like communication patterns and default roles, impacts your overall family health. Family therapy is also an effective tool for helping families cope with individual members’ health challenges, like depression and eating disorders.

Nine signs that your family could benefit from therapy

If you and your family struggle to communicate or manage conflict with respect, you may benefit from outside help. Every family dynamic is unique, but here are some common reasons that families decide to try family therapy.

  1. Trouble communicating, expressing emotions, or having open and honest dialogue
  2. Frequent arguments or conflict between partners, parents and children, or siblings
  3. Family members feeling isolated, misunderstood, or emotionally detached
  4. Parenting disagreements 
  5. Behavioral challenges or problems at school with children or adolescents
  6. Inconsistent parenting 
  7. Going through a major change, like divorce, grief, chronic illness, or financial strain 
  8. Learning to cope with a family member’s mental health challenges, like depression or substance use issues
  9. Understanding cultural differences, especially in blended families or families with members who identify as LGBTQ+

Four benefits of family therapy

The goal of family therapy is to improve the way a family interacts and functions. In addition to helping families express their thoughts and manage problems, family therapy can provide the following benefits. 

  1. Strengthened family bond: Family therapy can help families cultivate stronger, more authentic connections. By practicing openness, honesty, and empathy, people can learn how to foster healthier, more sustainable bonds. 
  2. Improved communication skills: Another leading benefit of family therapy is better communication skills. Through role-playing activities and communication techniques, therapists teach people how to communicate their needs clearly and respectfully. There’s also an emphasis on active listening which means listening without judgment or interruptions as well as nonverbal communication, like facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice.
  3. Better coping skills: If your family has recently had a traumatic experience, like infidelity or a death in the family, family therapy can teach you coping skills to process the emotional distress and adjust to your family’s new reality. 
  4. Opportunity for a healthier future: Having healthy relationships with family members can contribute to your well-being and help you foster greater self-esteem and healthier behaviors. Family therapy can also help the entire family by allowing them to break negative cycles, overcome unhealthy habits, and create a more positive future.

What to expect from family therapy

Family therapy provides a safe and supportive space for your family to heal and grow. During the initial assessment, your family will discuss their concerns, challenges, and goals for therapy. This is an opportunity for your therapist to build trust and rapport, and ensure that each family member has a chance to share what’s on their mind.

Throughout the sessions, your therapist will continue to facilitate conversations, identify individual and collective needs, and offer strategies to mitigate conflict and improve communication and connection. For best results, all family members should regularly attend sessions, engage in activities and discussions, and be receptive to positive change. Your therapist will also encourage each person to show respect and empathy and refrain from criticism and judgment throughout the process. 

Family therapy methods

Family therapists may use a variety of therapy methods depending on each family’s particular needs and preferences. Here are some examples: 

  • Bowenian family therapy: This therapeutic approach helps people identify and address intergenerational patterns and dynamics. 
  • Structural family therapy: With this approach, therapists work with families to improve communication and set appropriate boundaries.
  • Functional family therapy: This type of therapy helps families whose children have exhibited emotional or behavioral problems.
  • Brief solution-focused therapy: This strength-based therapeutic approach focuses on finding solutions rather than focusing on problems.

When is family therapy not appropriate?

Although family therapy can improve communication and create healthier homes for many families, there are certain situations when it may not be appropriate. Family therapy is typically not recommended when:

  • Family members are unwilling to participate in therapy.
  • Family members have severe untreated mental health issues and require alternative support. 
  • There are ongoing safety concerns, like physical or sexual abuse within the family. (If this is the case, family members might not feel comfortable sharing. Or sharing in therapy could put people in more danger.)

Find care with Rula

If you’re struggling to connect with your family, whether it be one person or the entire family, consider seeking professional support. Family therapists are trained to help families navigate difficult situations so they can work toward a brighter future. 

At Rula, we’re here to make it easier to access the care you deserve. Using our therapist-matching tool, you can find an experienced therapist who is accepting new clients and takes your insurance. Plus, our diverse network of over 8,000 therapists means you can be seen as soon as this week.

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