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Family therapy can help reduce distress and conflict by improving the systems of interactions between family members. The dynamics established in each family unit are distinct and exclusive to each family. The initial rolls assumed by the respective family members that make up a family unit often remain unchanged regardless of the age at which they were assumed. Long-time non-kin relationships are generally forced to develop, as the members’ grow older so as to accommodate the evolving relationship needs that accompany maturation. However, when left untended, family dynamics stagnate and thrive on the consistency of its members continuing to assume (often outdated) rolls. This can lead to developing unhealthy relationship habits, communication issues, and ineffective conflict resolution patterns, which can manifest both within the family unit as well as with members outside of the family unit. 

As Medical News Today explains, family counseling, synonymous with family therapy, “aims to address psychological, behavioral, and emotional issues that cause family problems.” Family therapy can help a family work through a difficult period (e.g., death of a loved one, major transition, mental health illness of a family member, etc.). The Mayo Clinic defines family therapy as “a type of psychological counseling (psychotherapy) that can help family members improve communication and resolve conflicts.” Through participating in family therapy, family members are provided with an emotionally safe environment to address and work through specific issues that are adversely affecting the functioning and health of the family unit.

Important Details

Family counseling is provided by a qualified mental health professional (e.g., licensed therapist, psychologist, clinical social worker, etc.). According to the Mayo Clinic, the typical duration of a family therapy session lasts about fifty minutes long. It is important to note that the term family holds a broader definition for the purposes of family counseling. As Laney Cline King (LCSW) asserts that family as “defined by the modern family therapist is anyone who plays a long-term supportive role in one’s life, which may not mean blood relations or family members in the same household.” There is a common misconception that family therapy requires the presence of every member of a family of origin. More accurately, family therapy occurs when two or more members of a family unit engage in psychotherapy sessions together. The difference between individual therapy and family therapy is that instead of focusing on an individual’s issues, a family therapy clinician views presenting problems as somewhat of a system malfunction that needs adjusting. The providing mental health professional may employ certain psychotherapeutic techniques and exercises to help the family unit heal as a whole. 

Disclaimer: 

The information above is provided for the use of informational purposes only. The above content is not to be substituted for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment, as in no way is it intended as an attempt to practice medicine, give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health.  As such, please do not use any material provided above as a means to disregard professional advice or delay seeking treatment.