Francis Chiappa, PhD
In family therapy, two or more family members meet with a therapist to talk about problems and solutions in any area of family life. Sometimes it’s a child with a problem, sometimes it’s an adult, sometimes it’s a difficult life transition or situation and sometimes people may just not be getting along.
In the first session, we ask about the situation that brings you to family therapy. We talk about family history, and begin to discuss possible solutions. In this session, we may discuss some things that are difficult to talk about at home. Over time, you can expect changes in family communication, which will help with the problem. Basically, family therapists aim to help the family use its own resources better, to help itself. Sessions are usually 45-50 minutes. Family therapy is often short-term, but the number of sessions will depend entirely on your family’s unique situation.
For younger children, family therapy can often help. Young children are more dependent on their families, so they are strongly influenced by them. Family stressors can affect a child’s adjustment. But the family can also be a positive influence, to help a child. Resolving differences over parenting styles often makes all the difference for the child and the parents.
Teenagers present different problems, because of their growing independence. It can be a challenge to find the right balance between allowing and encouraging independence and providing structure, reasonable expectations and appropriate limits. This challenge for parents and teens often leads to conflict. A teenager may refuse individual therapy and forcing them to attend individual therapy may not work. But family therapy can help them become more responsible family members. It’s easier for parents to justify family therapy because it is meant to help everyone get along better.
Many adult problems can be addressed with family therapy. These include disputes and disagreements of all kinds, tensions with in-laws, adult children having difficulty with independence, and the various stresses that affect families: mental health problems, medical problems, chronic illness, aging, loss of loved one, sexuality, family violence and abuse, alcohol and drug abuse, divorce, remarriage, “blended” families, and more.
For more serious mental illness, family therapy may not be the primary treatment, but it can help in conjunction with individual therapy and/or psychiatric care.
If you have any questions about whether family therapy might be helpful in your situation, give us a call or use the contact form at the bottom of this page.