- Family Therapy
For all family members together; and/or parent-child dyads; or children-only sessions. Each family is unique and assessed for the format to best fit their needs.
Time-Limited Relationship Enhancement Group for Couples
- Men & Women Sharing
Time-Limited Parenting Groups
- Parenting Teenagers
- Overcoming Parenting Dilemmas (deals with all ages, birth-18)
FAMILY THERAPY is a form of psychotherapy that often involves all the members of a nuclear or extended family. It is usually conducted by one family therapist, but can utilize a pair or team of therapists. Although some forms of family therapy are based on behavioral or psychodynamic principles, the most widespread form is based on family systems theory. This approach regards the family, as a whole, as the unit of treatment, and emphasizes such factors as relationships and communication patterns rather than traits or symptoms in individual members.
Family therapy tends to be short-term treatment, usually several months in length, with a focus on resolving specific problems. It is not normally used for long-term or intensive restructuring of severely dysfunctional families. (In these instances family members engage in intensive individual therapy first. Then may move into family therapy.)
In family therapy sessions, all members of the family and the therapist are present at most sessions. The therapists seek to analyze the process of family interaction and communication as a whole; they do not take sides with specific members. They may make occasional comments or remarks intended to help family members become more conscious of patterns or structures that had been previously taken for granted. Family therapists, who work as a team, also model new behaviors for the family through their interactions with each other during sessions.
Family therapy is based on family systems theory, which understands the family to be a living organism that is more than the sum of its individual members. Family therapy uses “systems” theory to evaluate family members in terms of their position or role within the system as a whole. Problems are treated by changing the way the system works rather than trying to “fix” a specific member.
Family Systems Theory is based on several major concepts:
The identified patient (IP) is the family member with the symptom that has brought the family into treatment. The concept of the IP is used by family therapists to keep the family from scapegoating the IP or using him or her as a way of avoiding problems in the rest of the system.
Homeostasis (balance) means that the family system seeks to maintain its customary organization and functioning over time. It tends to resist change. The family therapist can use the concept of homeostasis to explain why a certain family symptom has surfaced at a given time, why a specific member has become the IP, and what is likely to happen when the family begins to change.
The extended family field refers to the nuclear family, plus the network of grandparents and other members of the extended family. This concept is used to explain the intergenerational transmission of attitudes, problems, behaviors, and other issues.
Differentiation refers to the ability of each family member to maintain his or her own sense of self, while remaining emotionally connected to the family. One mark of a healthy family is its capacity to allow members to differentiate, while family members still feel that they are “members in good standing” of the family.
Triangular relationships occur whenever any two persons in the family system have problems with each other. They will “triangle in” a third member as a way of stabilizing their own relationship. The triangles in a family system usually interlock in a way that maintains family homeostasis. Common family triangles include a child and its parents; two children and one parent; a parent, a child, and a grandparent; three siblings; or, husband, wife, and an in-law.
Family therapists will usually evaluate a family for treatment by scheduling a series of interviews with the members of the immediate family, including young children, and significant or symptomatic members of the extended family. This process allows the therapist to find out how each member of the family sees the problem, as well as to form first impressions of the family’s functioning. Family therapists typically look for the level and types of emotions expressed, patterns of dominance and submission, the roles played by family members, communication styles, and the locations of emotional triangles. They will also note whether these patterns are rigid or relatively flexible.
Preparation often also includes drawing a genogram, which is a diagram that depicts significant persons and events in the family’s history. Genograms also include annotations about the medical history and major personality traits of each member. Genograms help in uncovering intergenerational patterns of behavior, marriage choices, family alliances and conflicts, the existence of family secrets, and other information that sheds light on the family’s present situation.