WHAT IS FAMILY THERAPY?

Family Therapy – or to give it its full title, Family and Systemic Psychotherapy – helps people in a close relationship help each other.

It enables family members, couples and others who care about each other to express and explore difficult thoughts and emotions safely, to understand each other’s experiences and views, appreciate each other’s needs, build on strengths and make useful changes in their relationships and their lives. Individuals can find Family Therapy helpful, as an opportunity to reflect on important relationships and find ways forward.

Research shows Family Therapy is useful for children, young people and adults experiencing a very wide range of difficulties and experiences. See our FAQ on ‘What difficulties are helped by Family Therapy?’

The earliest approaches to psychotherapy in the 20th Century focused on individual therapy, and the patient-therapist relationship as the best way to treat psychological problems. Patients were segregated from their families for therapy and treatment focused on their individual symptomatic behaviours.

The advent of family therapy ushered in a whole new way of understanding and explaining human behaviour. Family therapists shifted the focus of treatment in a way that allowed for social context, communication and relationship to have primary importance in therapy.

This way of working involves engaging with the whole family system as a functioning unit. While the individuals in the family are as important in family therapy as in individual therapy, family therapists also deal with the personal relations and interactions of the family members, both inside the family and in the therapeutic system which comprises the family, the therapist or therapists, and their broader community.

Family Therapy aims to be:

  • Inclusive and considerate of the needs of each member of the family and/or other key relationships (systems) in people’s lives
  • Recognise and build on peoples’ strengths and relational resources
  • Work in partnership ‘with’ families and others, not ‘on’ them
  • Sensitive to diverse family forms and relationships, beliefs and cultures
  • Enable people to talk, together or individually, often about difficult or distressing issues, in ways that respect their experiences, invite engagement and support recovery.

Sourced from: Association for Family Therapy & Systemic Practice UK