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Family Therapy

What kind of therapy is it?

Family therapy is also known as systemic therapy. It focuses on relationships in systems - these could be families, couples, or workplaces.

What problems can it help with?

Family therapy focuses on relationships, and so may be particularly helpful when relationships seem to be central to the problem. Many problems may be influenced by relationships, however, and so may respond to family therapy. This is particularly the case for children, as children are so strongly affected by the relationships within their families. Family therapy is suitable for all kinds of families and relationships.

How does it work?

Family therapists focus on patterns in relationships: roles that people take on or are given; patterns of behaviour; emotional dynamics; and the effect of important past events. Through becoming aware of these and making changes in them, many difficulties in relationships can be eased. 

What will a typical session be like?

Family therapy can be as short as one or two sessions, or it can be long-term. Family therapists might work with individuals, couples, several family members, whole families, or work teams. They never take sides or blame a member of the “system” (the family, couple, or team) for the problem, but rather look for ways for the members of the system to reach new shared understandings that will improve relationships. When working with children, family therapists might use play as a therapeutic technique.

What’s the evidence?

There is extensive evidence for the effectiveness of family therapy, and it is recommended by NICE (that body that gives guidelines for treatment to be offered by the NHS) for: alcohol abuse; eating disorders; depression in adults and children; antisocial behaviour in young people; antenatal and postnatal depression; bipolar disorder; diabetes; and psychosis and schizophrenia in adults and young people.

Further reading:
The Association for Family Therapy (PDF)
Amazon - The Family Crucible: The Intense Experience of Family Therapy Paperback


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