Family therapy is a branch of psychotherapy that works with families and couples in intimate relationships to nurture change and development. It tends to view change in terms of the systems of interaction between family members. It emphasises family relationships as an important factor in psychological health.
Family therapy grew out of the recognition that individuals are born into, develop through and live in a social and inter-personal context. What this means is that family therapists view the forces between and around people (rather than the forces within individuals) as important for understanding and treating problems.
Family therapy focuses on:
- what we can learn about family beliefs and from family history: e.g. about roles, rules, culture, and patterns over time and across generations;
- assisting families with coping given the challenges of meeting the tasks of family life and transitions. e.g. coupling, incorporating children, adjusting to adolescence, launching children into adulthood, dealing with retirement and old age, and so on;
- managing the stressors on family life such as mental and physical illness, divorce/separation, loss, migration and disability; and
- utilising the supports, resources and hidden strengths that exist within and around the family.
So if you are concerned about anyone in the family being:
- in constant conflict,
- communicating poorly with each other,
- appearing overly unhappy or withdrawn, worried, fearful, aggressive, showing signs of weight or food problems,
- having trouble adjusting to a life transition or major loss or change, or
- needing support in coping with a serious mental disorder such as an anorexia nervosa or schizophrenia, or with an illness such as cancer or dementia.