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What is Family Therapy?

Family therapy is a form of therapy which has a good evidence base for working with psychological distress. Family therapy views presenting difficulties as a product of interactions between members of that network (i.e. the family and also the wider network, including the school and the local community). A strength of this approach is that it seeks not to pathologise or focus on one particular individual, but rather it aims to draw from the strengths of a network to find solutions or a more harmonious pattern of interacting.

Who can benefit from Family Therapy?

Family therapy is for any type of family system whether it be the immediate nuclear family, adoptive, extended relations, or even a parent-child dyad in some instances. Any group who function as a family but find the relationship strained may well benefit from the neutral and balanced space that family therapy can provide.

What are the qualifications of Family Therapists?

Family and Marital therapists have specific training in working with family systems. They may be trained in any number of modalities such as Satir, Bowenian, or Emotion-Focused family therapy, Psychotherapists and Clinical Psychologists may also have specialist training in working with families with a systemic approach.

What is the difference between a Family, Marital, and Couples therapist?

Family, Marital and Couples therapists are all trained to work with relationships between people who share a close bond but who may be experiencing discord for one reason or another that causes distress to one or all parties involved. Each type of therapist in trained in the art and science of providing a safe, non-judgmental space where each voice can have equal weight and all parties can be heard whilst others can reflect on new meanings and behaviours.

Couples and Marital therapists largely focus on what is happening between a romantic pair. Both forms of therapy often can involve a focus on communications patterns and recognition of the others’ needs. Marital therapy specifically can sometimes include discussions around finding balance in different elements of a marriage such as family planning, infidelity, or even referring to a financial support specialist where warranted.

Family therapy can include all of the above where deemed necessary but largely focuses on the relationships between family members, especially where balance may be lost and distress is felt by all at some level. Typically family therapy is warranted to special cases such as with addictions, adoptions/fostering, youth with a diagnosis of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) or Conduct Disorder CD), in the case of a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) of a family member, divorce, and similar such presentations.

Harmony may not be possible with every presentation but an overarching goal can still be to find a balance that can relieve distress and give hope for the future to all members of a family system.

How do I get to see a therapist?

You can refer yourself directly to work with a family, couples or marriage therapist. Sometimes a direct referral can be made from other mental health and medical professionals.

All referrals are treated in a non-judgmental manner and with the strictest confidence. When you meet with a therapist, sessions are typically 75 minutes in length and held on a weekly basis for four to six sessions and then spaced out over longer periods of time to allow the family to adjust to new realities.

Whilst it is ideal that all related family members attend together each time, it is also the case that individual sessions can be beneficial to work through material that would take longer than a normal family session.

It is not appropriate that those pursuing individual therapy also take up family work with the same therapist, but it can frequently be helpful where individual members of a family attend their own therapy separately from family therapy. It is also important that no two family members take up individual therapy with the same therapist.

Family, marriage, and couples therapists maintain professional CPD, supervision, and professional memberships just the same as therapists working with individuals. These are even more critical to ensure impartiality and ongoing professional development for the benefit of everyone.