When you reflect on your family, what immediate reactions come to mind? Do you feel stressed or frustrated? Are you disappointed with how one or more of your relatives treat you? Does communication feel strained or distant?
Our families provide a critical framework in fostering healthy self-esteem and promoting positive relationships. But if we don’t feel safe with the people closest to us, we may feel depressed, anxious, lonely, or resentful instead. Over the long-term, these difficult emotions can severely impact our mental health and overall quality of life.
Family therapy can provide support to even the most strained family units. It provides a safe and nonjudgmental space for exploration and healing. It also offers valuable tools for helping family members connect in healthier ways. Let’s get into how it may support you.
Family Therapy: An Overview For What To Expect
Successful family therapy is dynamic and collaborative. This process isn’t about a therapist teaching you what to do (or not do). It isn’t about “curing” relationship problems or creating a perfect family system. Finally, it isn’t about taking sides or placing blame.
Family therapists support families with a variety of issues including:
Strained or ineffective communication patterns
Past or current trauma (medical issues, grief and loss)
Significant life transitions (divorce, death of a family member, the birth of a child)
Respect and boundaries between members
Emotional and behavioral issues (i.e., one or more member struggles with substance abuse or mental health problem)
Family therapists typically begin treatment by inquiring about each person’s needs and emotional experiences as they relate to the familial system. This introductory process allows therapists to define appropriate treatment goals for successful intervention.
The therapist treats the entire family system as “the client.” This means that family therapists perceive issues dynamically and systematically. They study interactive patterns to determine the best strategies for facilitating healthy change.
Improving Communication In Families
Do you come from a family of shouters? Or does your family tend to sweep issues under the rug? Does anyone engage in silent treatment when they’re upset?
Most of us struggle with healthy communication. In times of distress, we often react with aggression, avoidance, or complacent behaviors. Unfortunately, ineffective communication isolates family members from one another. Additionally, it tends to make us feel angry, defensive, and even hopeless about a connection with the people we love.
All families face conflict. In family therapy, you will learn how to discuss the problems you face without becoming defensive or hostile. Subsequently, you will also learn how to listen to your family when they need support from you.
Processing and Healing From Trauma
Trauma can impact families intergenerationally. Let’s say a young boy experiences his father’s death at just five years old. This boy grows up with a widowed mother struggling with severe depression and financial despair due to the sudden death.
In his adult life, this boy gets married and has a son of his own. Unfortunately, he feels unable to connect emotionally with his son. He withdraws when his child seeks him out. He buckles down and focuses on work and money. After all, he doesn’t want his child ever to experience the agony associated with poverty. As a result, the son feels abandoned by his father, and the pattern continues.
Working through trauma is challenging. However, repeating the same negative cycles is far more painful. Through exploring trauma in therapy, family members increase insight. Insight offers the chance to create new patterns for change. Likewise, they can build a more secure foundation for supporting thoughts and emotions that may arise due to the trauma.
Coping With Significant Life Transitions
Critical milestones- both good and bad- can impact the family homeostasis and result in heightened conflict and distress. Life transitions may include:
New intimate relationships and marriage
Separation and divorce
Pregnancy and birth of a new child
Children leaving the home
Sudden trauma (job loss, medical diagnosis, car accidents, etc.)
Therapy provides a supportive environment for members to process the emotions related to these events. Even positive change can be hard. Therapy encourages connecting and supporting one another during these times.
Establishing and Implementing Healthy Boundaries
Boundaries are guidelines that establish permissible behavior. Boundaries can be emotional, physical, or emotional. Healthy family systems have clear boundaries. Members know what is (and isn’t) tolerated. Furthermore, they also know the consequences of crossing such boundaries.
Unhealthy family systems often have rigid, loose, or downright inconsistent boundaries. People don’t really know how to react to one another. As a result, relationships may feel erratic and complicated.
Some examples of healthy boundaries commonly explored in family therapy include:
Establishing and enforcing appropriate house rules
Having the right to privacy
Respectful communication and language
Having the right for individual and independent thinking
Sense of safety and security within family relationships
Boundaries are not exclusive to age, and children and parents alike have the right to boundaries. Family members must learn to respect one another’s limits, and they must also learn how to effectively mend boundary crossings should they occur.
Emotional and Behavioral Issues
Conditions like substance use disorders and other psychiatric disorders can be devastating for everyone. The affected individual may feel ostracized or shamed by the family. Likewise, family members often feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or confused about how to intervene.
Family can be the greatest asset for a successful recovery, and family therapy offers a cohesive opportunity for restored connection. Affected individuals must learn how to take care of themselves and utilize healthy coping skills. Family members must learn how and when to provide appropriate support.
Many families find themselves consumed by emotional or behavioral issues. Family therapy can provide helpful psychoeducation while highlighting how members can be a productive ally without overreacting or underreacting.
At The Resurface Group, family therapy is an essential component of our program. We believe that, regardless of the circumstances, each family member has room for growth. As the family becomes healthier, everyone becomes happier. And that’s what profound change is all about.
Are you interested in learning more about how our dynamic program can help you or your loved ones? Contact us today to learn more about our services!