Family therapy is a therapeutic approach that involves a psychologist meeting with either the entire family, or part of the family system. The initial meeting usually consists of the family therapist meeting with the entire family to get a sense of how family members interact, and also to get an idea of how each person conceptualizes the ‘problems.’ Some common issues to be addressed in family therapy may include: power-imbalances and struggles, behavioural problems, co-parenting difficulties, a lack of emotional connection, issues communicating, and so on.
After an initial meeting, the family therapist will often choose to meet with the parents on their own, or perhaps even the children, before continuing on with the family meetings. Of course each therapist will have a good rationale for how they choose to structure the family sessions and would be happy to discuss their thoughts and solicit feedback about how to make the best use of the time in therapy.
The rationale behind family therapy involves recognizing that the presenting therapeutic issues are often bigger than any one person. In order to understand their underlying causes, one must get a good sense of the interpersonal dynamics operating within the family system.
Families typically work as a fluid and functional unit as they respond to the ‘pushes and pulls’ triggered by the thoughts, feelings, and actions, of its individual members. Most of the time, we do not even realize it happening. While family systems almost always find a stable equilibrium, the patterns of functioning can be at times unhealthy or unbalanced. A family therapist or psychologist therefore works collaboratively with the family to identify and eventually change problematic relational patterns or family issues.
A psychologist may also work with whole or parts of the family to deal with issues that impact more than one person. This may include coping parental separation or divorce, illness or disability within the family, or dealing with the loss of a loved one.