The Immense Benefits of Family Therapy

The Immense Benefits of Family Therapy

Therapy can feel like a broad term, as there are many different modes and types of therapy. For children especially, one of the greatest forms of therapy is family therapy. There are a lot of reasons to start family therapy, and these can include marital problems, parent-child conflict, blended family issues, the effects of illness on the family, inconsistency in parenting skills, and more. Family therapy has incredible benefits for children, including but not limited to opening lines of communication, establishing boundaries, and fostering empathy and understanding. 

What Is Family Therapy?

Psychologists define family therapy as “a structured form of psychotherapy that seeks to reduce stress and conflict by improving systems interactions between family members.” Family therapy is a great way for families to work out issues and open lines of communication with a neutral third party. Therapists can ask the family questions, challenge their thinking on divisive views, and foster understanding as they offer strategies for success and homework for families to help each other outside the therapist’s office. All participants must be open to suggestions from the therapist, especially the parents, as they are the adults who are to do their best for the children involved, and they help set the tone of the therapeutic setting for the children. 

Family therapy can be a great place for teens to reconnect with their parents. Sometimes it’s easier for teens to communicate with their parents with a mediator present. Parents can also learn their teen’s thought processes and together come up with ways to instill positive communication at home. 

Goals of Family Therapy

There are many goals of family therapy that can be unique to each family. For example, a family may have a goal of sharing a meal at least three times a week or expressing gratitude for each other to show they care. There are structured goals of family therapy that the therapist will set out to achieve. Examples of such goals may be to: 

  • Explore the interactional dynamics of the family and its relationship to psychopathology
  • Mobilize the family’s internal strength and functional resources
  • Restructure maladaptive interactional family styles, like improving communication
  • Strengthen the family’s problem-solving skills
  • Assess the strengths of the family members and how they can grow these strengths
  • Address individual perpetual problems in the family and strategize how to help the family tackle and diffuse these issues
  • Give parents strategies for consistent parenting that will benefit all their children
  • Give children strategies for problem-solving and emotional regulation that coincide with what their parents will learn and model for them

Setting Boundaries

Family therapy is a perfect place to establish boundaries in the family. Many families face problems with boundary-stomping, which can take many forms. For example, sometimes teens don’t know how to effectively tell their parents that they need more space and privacy. They notice their parents don’t give them the space, autonomy, or privacy they crave as they become more independent. Parents may still view their teen as a young child and not realize their teen is growing more independent and needs the space to do so. This is a common cause of conflict in households that can lead to hurt feelings and emotional outbursts. 

The family therapist will come up with solutions and challenge the behaviors displayed when boundaries are being crossed. In this example, the therapist may recommend a lock on the bedroom door, trust with their cell phone (unless something serious happened and there are clear reasons the teen can’t be trusted to make smart decisions), or independence in other ways that may make the parents feel uncomfortable. The therapist can help both parties meet in the middle to develop more room for independence with safety measures in place and help navigate healthy boundaries. 

Open Lines of Communication

The therapist will give the family strategies for speaking to each other in a way that communicates more effectively than arguing, yelling, avoiding, or destructive behaviors. The therapist may ask leading questions, challenge each family member’s thought processes and assumptions, and suggest positive ways to communicate. For example, the therapist may recommend that people only talk to each other when they are calm. If one party is not calm and is yelling, it is the job of the other party to calmly communicate that they will not discuss the situation further until they are calm. Then they can try again. This helps diffuse potentially damaging situations. 

Empathy and Understanding

The therapist also offers a place for empathy and understanding. Many parents become parents with only the tools and skills that were modeled for them as children. This can be a great thing, or it can create a perpetual cycle of dysfunctional family trauma. Having the therapist help families see where they are getting their behaviors and parenting patterns from can help their overall communication, and model that empathy and validation of each other’s feelings that they desperately need.

Family therapy is a fantastic way for families to reconnect and observe what changes need to be made for peaceful and happy coexistence in families. Many teens struggle with family trauma, attachment issues, and mental health problems, and this can cause a significant amount of stress and turmoil at home. It is the parent’s job to make sure their teen is getting the mental health help they need, and family therapy can give both teens and parents positive strategies for success as they set boundaries and open lines of communication. If you have a teen who struggles with trauma and attachment issues, Havenwood Academy can help. The professional and highly experienced staff at our long-term residential facility can help your daughter work through her trauma, and help families heal in our family therapy sessions. We want to help your daughter and your family. Call us today at (435) 586-2500 for more information.

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