The basic idea about family therapy is that the family is a system. This means that what is happening to one person in the family system will have an effect on others in the family system. Family therapy provides an opportunity and a place for family members to come together and work through issues that might be affecting the entire family.
Initial meetings will focus on figuring out what is not working and why, and goals for the therapy will be agreed upon. Often families need some help with conflict mediation, learning how to communicate more clearly, and developing more effective ways of coping with stress while still being there for their family members.
Family work is focused on helping the family members to think and behave more adaptively, and to learn to make better choices in efforts to get needs met, so that the family environment is more stable and peaceful. Insight, empathy, respect, and caring are enhanced with family members who are invested in the treatment.
When working with families, therapists often see members individually as well as together, to get a full picture of the issues involved, and to work more in depth with each individual regarding their role or contribution to the family’s problematic patterns. The family meetings are forums in which perspectives and experiences are shared, and increased understanding and problem-solving occurs. Throughout the course of treatment, progress is made toward improved family functioning.
Family therapy can prove to be very helpful when a family becomes a “blended” or “step” family. It can provide a safe place for the discussion of the issues that arise, resentment that may be building, or sad and hurt feelings because of the changes in the family dynamics. Parents can be seen individually, and together, with their new partners, and also with their children in order to define new family roles and identities.
Child and adolescent therapy sessions can help to identify any areas of potential difficulty and aide the children in making sense of and adjusting to the dramatic changes that have taken place in their lives as a result of their parent’s divorce or any other traumatic event.
Co-parenting issues are also a significant focus when blended families enter therapy.