Family therapy is psychotherapy conducted with one or more individuals that form part of a family system and is often aimed at improving communication, resolving conflicts, redefining relationships and/ or dealing with shared traumas. Family therapy is an older form of therapy and because of logistical challenges in attending the family therapy sessions together, family therapy can, if indicated, only make out the context in which difficulties are addressed.
Thus, focusing on the individual as a member of a family system is also sufficient to work from a family therapy approach. Family therapy is often requested when one or more of family members present with psychological and/ or medical difficulties that impact the whole family system and necessitate the adjustment to the new family norm.
Examples of presenting difficulties include: relationships difficulties with family members, conflict between parents and children (often with adult children), impact of substance abuse on the entire family emotionally and financially, family adjustment difficulties when a family member has received a psychological of neurological degenerative diagnosis (e.g. schizophrenia, Alzheimer, Parkinson’s disorder, etc), when a family member suffered a traumatic brain injury which altered his/her level of functioning and interpersonal dependency and/ or the loss of a family member to death or family rejection.
Family therapy is indicated when the therapist has had an opportunity to form a clear picture of each members’ psychological functioning and intervention in various relationships is indicated. This form of therapy may include individual therapy, couples therapy and group work depending on the presenting complaint and the psychological components that maintain the difficulty. The aim of family therapy is to facility homeostasis in the family system to the best interest of each member of the family unit. This may be accomplished by teaching empathy with one another, unconditional acceptance of the person without approving destructive behaviors and learning skills to communicate and problem solve more optimally (to name just a few).
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