What is family therapy and is it right for you? – Forbes Health

Typically, marriage and family therapists see clients for about 12 sessions, with 65% of cases completed in 20 sessions, according to the AAMFT.

Many family therapists use a visual tool called genograms to help them learn about a family’s history and the different influences that have run through the family line, Dr. VanBoxel says.

“Genograms help therapists examine the whole connection of the family tree and all of the emotional stories that family members grew up in,” she says. Genograms can also reveal belief systems within a family that help paint a picture, such as why certain things may matter or trigger them, she continues.

For example, let’s say the parents disagree about how to deal with a child who has behavioral problems, says Dr. VanBoxel. Instead of focusing solely on changing child behaviors, family therapists could examine what informs how adults choose to parent, such as why they may choose certain punishments over others, and how these punishments impact children’s feelings of connection and closeness to their parents, says Dr. VanBoxel.

Family therapy could be more “experiential,” says Dr. VanBoxel, where families learn new ways to interact with each other, possibly through role-playing.

Dr. Eddy often suggests exercises for families to do between sessions, such as asking couples to take time out for date nights away from their children, which can improve their connection. He also says that many families can benefit from having dinner together without phones or televisions. Then, in therapy, they talk about what it was like for everyone. He might ask, “Did you feel like you were communicating better as a family this week?” and give each member the space to talk about their feelings. Dr. Eddy also uses an “emotion wheel” in family therapy, which helps family members learn to recognize and express their emotions.

An important part of family therapy is simply making each member feel important and like they have a voice that is heard, adds Dr. Eddy.

“It’s really about getting them to slow down and take turns listening and talking,” he says. “They realize by doing it that it makes things better.”

Questions to Ask Potential Family Therapists

Therapists generally describe their general philosophies and therapeutic approaches on their websites. But if they don’t, it’s a good idea to ask them how they typically work with families similar to yours, to help you determine if they’re a good fit for your family. Dr. VanBoxel suggests asking the following questions:

  • What your family’s treatment plan might look like
  • How the plan will help you achieve your treatment goals
  • How you can gauge success as you go through the process

It’s also wise to ask them if they have experience dealing with families with your particular issues and if they’re comfortable dealing with children in the age range of those in your family.

“I encourage families to take this research and interviews seriously,” says Dr. VanBoxel. “If therapists have clear answers to these questions about their approach and treatment plans, that’s a good indicator.”

Also keep in mind that if family members are seeing individual therapists separately, it is helpful for both therapists to be on the same page about the best treatment approaches, so clients receive complementary therapy instead. than confrontational, adds Dr. VanBoxel.

“Make sure you have someone everyone can connect with, which sometimes takes trial and error,” she says. “Everyone should feel comfortable and on board, and the therapist should provide unconditional support to everyone in the room.”

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