Even the healthiest of families experience problems. A stressful event, such as death of a loved one, divorce, natural disaster, or financial hardship, can result in strained family relationships. Family problems can also arise from one family member’s issues. For example, if a father has mental health concerns, such as depression or substance abuse, or chronic illness, such as cancer or diabetes, this can lead to stress on the entire family system. Even issues, such as communication problems, interpersonal conflict, or behavioral problems in children and adolescents, can negatively impact the family system.
Family therapy helps the family system by addressing the specific issues that impact the overall psychological health of individual family members and interfere with the cohesiveness of the family as a whole. For example, if a teen is experiencing social and academic problems, family therapy will focus on the family patterns that are contributing to the adolescent’s acting out, rather than evaluating the adolescent’s behavior alone. The role of the therapist is to help the family members collaborate and learn how to effectively communicate in order to address their problems.
Family therapy treatment is often brief, and most family therapy models focus on both verbal and nonverbal communication styles of the family. It is common for family therapists to work with the family as a group and with individual family members to enhance the family therapy sessions. As the family uncovers the source of the problem, they learn how to support one another, effectively communicate, and work together to solve the problem or alter the conditions that contribute to the problem.