Family Therapy"Family dysfunction rolls down from generation to generation, like a fire in the woods, taking down everything in its path until one person in one generation has the courage to turn and face the flames. That person brings peace to their ancestors and spares the children that follow." - Terry Real
Introduction to Family Therapy
The family therapy model that I use is based on a combination of Family Systems Theory and Attachment Based Family Therapy.
Family Systems Therapy (FST) –Systems Theory focusses on the interactional patterns between family members and the roles each family member plays in the family. If these roles and patterns are unhealthy, they can cause anxiety, conflict and unhappiness.
Attachment-based Family Therapy (ABFT) – ABFT is based on attachment theory which states that we all have an inherent, biological desire for meaningful relationships. The focus of ABFT is to help family members to connect and form a secure emotional bond with each other. The effectiveness of this family therapy intervention in improving the relationships between family members is supported by research.
Through ABFT, family members begin to understand the deeper emotions underlying the conflict and surface behaviours of the members in their family. They also learn to identify and express their deeper emotions; to accept and feel compassion toward their own emotions and those of their family members, and to begin to express their personal needs and desires in a healthy, positive way.
How does Family Systems Therapy work?
The aim of family therapy is to support and understand each family member and identify the roles and patterns in the family system. Each member of the family is seen in relation to the roles and patterns in the family system and not in isolation. The aim of family systems therapy is to create healthier and more positive roles and patterns, to improve the emotional wellbeing of each family member, to encourage more secure relationships between members of the family and to strengthen the family as a unit. These families could be nuclear families, extended families or blended families.
In family therapy, ideally the entire family is present or work can be done with different subsets of the family: For example: the parents, the couple, the siblings, or even individuals.
How does Attachment-based Family Therapy work?
There are five steps In the process of ABFT therapy. The relationship between parent and teenager will be used as an example:
- In ABFT therapy, the focus is shifted towards improving the relationship between parent and teenager and to begin to understand what is causing difficulty in their relationship.
- I then have individual sessions with the teenager in order to gain insight into the way the teenager views the problem and to help the teenager to understand and talk about their experience in their relationship with their parent/s.
- I would then work separately in sessions with the parents (without the teenager present), offering empathy and support to them. The parents own history of possible attachment difficulties is explored as this will affect their parenting.
- I will then arrange joint sessions with the parents and teenager in order to build a more securely attached relationship between parent and teen.
- Finally, I guide the family therapy process between parents and their teenager as they evolve into a new relationship, encouraging parents to allow more appropriate autonomy and freedom to their teenager, with the understanding on the part of the teenager that s/he has a parallel responsibility for his/her choices and behaviour.
How do we know we need Family Therapy?
Consider family therapy if your family is having difficulty coping with:
- Life stage transitions – birth of a child, separation, divorce or remarriage
- Parent-child relationships across the life span
- Stress from illness, disability, or death
- Loss & grief
- The effects of addiction (alcohol or drug addiction) or eating disorder on the family
- Financial stresses or the stresses of modern life affecting family life
- Marital stress and parenting styles affecting your family
- Blended and stepfamily challenges
- Anger management/Conflict resolution/Poor communication
- Family members exhibiting extreme emotional responses or withdrawal from family life
- Co-parenting, single parenting and visitation
- Parenting for individuals with past trauma
- Cultural and multicultural issues
- Ageing, job loss or retirement
- Stress related to caring for elderly parents
- Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) issues