Family therapy is often initiated to resolve family conflicts, improve communication, and help family members better understand one another.
For children and adolescents, there are lots of areas of life in which they have far less control than an adult. For example, where and who they live with, what school they go to, what rules they have to follow, and how much money they have. Parents or caregivers are in control of these things and many other aspects of their lives because children and teens have not yet developed the skills necessary to make wise decisions on their own in the world.
Because we don’t allow children and teens to make certain decisions on their own or without supervision, therapy should include those who are in control of many aspects of the child’s life. This relates to the duties we have as parents. The main theme to these duties is to prepare children and adolescents to become adults themselves. The first learning that we do is with our parents or caregivers. These are our most trusted allies in life and the quickest and most sustainable change that happens in therapy is with our first teachers and most trusted allies present. So parents or primary caregiver involvement in the therapeutic process is often essential.
If that’s not convincing enough, the philosophy behind most family therapy models is also that what affects one, affects the whole family in good ways and bad. Think about when you were growing up and one of your family members did something wrong. If you remember it, then you also remember what it was like in your home at that moment and so does everyone else who was there. It affected everyone. So because it affects everyone, change must also be created with everyone present in order to make sure the whole family makes sustainable change together. The same is true for couple’s therapy.
Family therapy models tend to use certain interventions that focus on ensuring that the different family members talk to each other during therapy sessions and focus on the way we communicate and relate to one another. You can expect your therapist to be directive, to ask you to talk to each other, to think about what you want to say and say it briefly, to discuss with your family how things make you feel or the rationale behind certain actions taken. You can also expect homework tasks and the creation of solid treatment plans moving forward to address the prominent issues the family is facing.
Family therapy can be helpful in addressing a variety of issues but most often is used to address issues with children and adolescents like:
- Substance abuse and addiction
- Legal issues
- Behavioral problems
- Family conflict
- Communication problems
- Poor school performance
- Newly diagnosed mental illness
- Anxiety and depression