Family Therapy

Family therapy is a type of psychotherapy designed to assist members of a family improve communication techniques and resolve group and individual conflicts. Family therapy is often provided by a licensed therapist, clinical social worker or a psychologist.

Family therapy is usually short term and may include the entire family or just the members capable of actively participating in the sessions. Treatment plans are dependent upon a family’s situation. Family therapy is helpful for teaching skills to assist in coping with stressful situations that either are occurring or may occur in the future.

Many health care professionals are certified as Marriage and Family Therapists. However, numerous other professionals are capable of offering quality family counseling services. Clinical psychologists, clinical social workers and pastoral counselors routinely offer family therapy.

Purpose of Family Therapy

Family therapy can help in improving troubled relationships between all members of the family. Specific issues are often addressed. Some of the common issues discussed are:

  • Marital issues
  • Financial problems
  • Parent/children conflict

Family therapy can also be helpful in addressing the effects of mental illness or substance abuse on the entire family. This is usually performed in concert with individual counseling for the member experiencing substance abuse issues or mental illness. However, family therapy is still useful for the group, even if individual counseling is not sought out.

Family therapy may be useful in any situation that causes grief, anger or conflict within a family unit. Family therapy can help families grow closer and better understand one another.

Preparation for Family Therapy

The only preparation required for seeking family therapy is obtaining a referral or recommendation. Primary care doctors are great sources for referrals. Additionally, family and friends can offer recommendations according to their experiences.

It is important to determine whether a therapist would be a good fit for a particular family. Some things to consider before hiring a therapist could include:

Qualifications of the Family Therapist

It is helpful to consider the educational qualifications and experience a therapist has prior to the first visit. Some therapists specialize in certain types of family counseling.

Availability of the Family Therapist

Before hiring a therapist, determine whether the therapist can accommodate scheduling needs. It isn’t helpful to begin therapy, only to discover it will be interrupted by an impending vacation or other obligation.


Determine how many sessions might be needed and how long each session might be prior to visiting.


Find out how much is charged per session and whether it might be covered with insurance. Additionally, what sort of payment schedule is required?


Family therapy may involve individual and group sessions. Sessions are usually 60 to 90 minutes and are often short term. Most family therapy sessions are completed within six months. However, the number of sessions and frequency of meetings will depend on a family’s specific needs and the therapists’ recommendation.

Family therapy can assist families in pinpointing specific challenges, and discover new ways of handling them. Family therapy involves being guided by a therapist while discovering and overcoming unhealthy patterns of relating to one another.

Results of Family Therapy

Family therapy cannot automatically solve family conflicts and issues. Unpleasant situations will not disappear. However, it can assist in family members understanding one another better. Family therapy can also provide the entire family with the necessary skills to cope with challenging situations.


  1. Family therapy – (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved May 13, 2012, from
  2. example, a. c., & 12&. (n.d.). Chapter 1 Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy – Substance Abuse Treatment and Family Therapy – NCBI Bookshelf. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved May 13, 2012, from

By C. J. Newton, MA, Editor

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