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. 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, like 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 through issues and open communication with a neutral third party.
Therapists can challenge a family’s thinking on divisive views, foster understanding, and offer strategies for families to help each other. All participants must be open to suggestions from the therapist, especially the parents. 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. A goal may be to share a meal multiple days each week or express gratitude for each other more often. 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
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. They do 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. A therapist may recommend a lock on the bedroom door. Some may suggest granting opportunities to earn back trust with their cell phone. Family Therapists can recommend giving independence in other ways that may make the parents feel uncomfortable.
The therapist can help both parties develop room for independence with safety measures in place and help navigate healthy boundaries.
Open Lines of Communication
Many families default to arguing, yelling, avoiding, or destructive behaviors. The therapist will give the family strategies for speaking to each other in a way that communicates more effectively. The family 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 gets upset, the other party needs to communicate their need to have a calm and safe discussion. When they calm they can then try again. This helps diffuse potentially damaging situations.
Empathy and Understanding
The therapist also offers a place for empathy and understanding. Many parents only use 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 a family therapist, parents can see where they are getting their behaviors and parenting patterns from. This can help their overall communication and model the empathy and validation that they desperately need.
Many teens struggle with family trauma, attachment issues, and mental health problems. This can cause a significant amount of stress and turmoil at home. Every parent is responsible to get their teen the mental health help they need. Family therapy can give both teens and parents positive strategies to set boundaries and open lines of communication.
If you have a teen who struggles with trauma and attachment issues, Havenwood Academy can help. We offer family therapy in our long-term residential facility that can help your child work through trauma and families heal.
Call us today at (435) 586-2500 for more information.
Think Havenwood Might Be For You?
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