Family therapy is about taking care of life’s precious relationships – your family. Family therapy can address and smooth over life’s everyday bumps, or the occasional blowout. Family therapy can address issues like communication, being seen and heard within the family, acting out children, blended families, young adults leaving home, etc. Practically, family therapy can mean having all members of the family meet with a therapist, or occasionally parts or single members of the family.
Families, whether for good or bad, close or distant, loving or dysfunctional, are the main attachment figures in our lives. This means that, at least initially, we relied primarily on them for our sense of connectedness, safety, and worth. Most psychological family theories would state that the real driver of emotional wellbring is appropriate and life giving attachments with family, partners, and friends. We can love them or dislike them, but we all have to deal with them and make our peace with them: in this real life of living with them, or in the inner workings of our emotional hearts. We can live close by, or we could have taken the geographical cure and move 1000 miles away, yet there is no getting around it. Family lives in the emotional, attachment heart of each one of us. And in that emotional place, they influence us still. Families are the luck of the draw. Now if we happen to come from a generally loving and secure family, wonderful. If your family was more dysfunctional, sorry to hear that. It is not your fault, but you do have to take responsibility and change it for the best. And since there are no perfect parents, we each have a wound or two that comes down from our family.
This is what makes family therapy so important, whether you are working through difficulties with your family, or on your own, creating new shared meanings and connection can promote overall well-being. Family therapy helps people in a close relationship help each other. It enables family members who care about each other to express and explore difficult thoughts and emotions safely. It teaches better communication so that parents can talk in a way that kids can hear, and vice versa. Each family member needs to understand each other’s experiences and views. We can learn to appreciate each other’s needs, build on strengths, and make useful changes in family relationships. Family therapy can mean that no one gets left behind!
Some family psychotherapists approach family therapy from a family of origin perspective, others from a more emotionally focused therapy approach; and still others might use a more intergrative therapy style. Whatever the approach to family therapy, the goal is to communicate and bring emotional safety to all.
Written by Dr. Martin Rovers, Marriage and Family Therapist with Capital Choice Counselling Group. You can check out his profile here.