Family life is not always easy and families can be complicated because everyone is unique. Each person in a family talks about things in a different way and each person has different ideas, feelings, worries and strengths. All kinds of changes can make family life more stressful, such as an illness, unemployment, moving home, new family members, getting older, divorce, death and trauma. Some families find their own ways to manage these changes and some families find it much harder, for all minds of reasons.
Family therapy can help families when they are feeling overwhelmed, sad, angry; when they are not sure what to do for the best; or when they feel stuck in repeating patterns of hurtful or harmful behaviour.
what does family mean...?
Family therapists understand that different people have different ideas about what ‘family’ means. So ‘family’ is used to describe any group of people who care about each other and call themselves a family. As well as parents and children of all ages, they may also involve grandparents, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, cousins, friends, carers and other professionals. They try to include whoever is important to the family.
Each person’s beliefs, culture, and life experiences are respected and heard empowering each family member to have a voice.
how it works...
Family therapists will talk about each person’s hope for the family and encourage everyone in the family to talk about their experiences and to listen to everyone else. They will respect and clarify each person’s beliefs, values, needs, hopes and assumptions to help them understand each other better.
They will help families to stop blaming each other and to begin exploring how everyone can work together to make things better. They will help the family to understand the impact each members words have on other members in the family and explore what each person does well and what they are most proud of.
They will also draw a family tree called a genogram to help people think about the different relationships in the family and to talk about and understand the challenges each person might be facing whilst supporting them as they work towards their goals.
family therapy can be useful for families and relationships that are facing all kinds of difficulties and experiences such as:
- couple relationship difficulties
- child and teenagers mental health issues
- adult mental health issues
- parenting issues
- illness and disability in the family
- bereavement and loss of a family member
- separation, divorce and step-family life
- anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders
- fostering, adoption, kinship care and the needs of ‘looked after’ children
- domestic violence and abuse
- self harm
- drug and alcohol misuse
- the effects of trauma
- difficulties related to ageing and other life cycle changes
Family therapy enables family members 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 and as an opportunity to reflect on important relationships and find ways forward. It is useful for children, young people and adults experiencing a wide range of difficulties and experiences.