Family relationships can be some of the most complicated relationships a person has in their life. Family disagreements may span generations, and relationship dynamics often pass down through the years.
But is your family destined to keep repeating the same patterns, arguments, and challenges? Not at all-family therapy can help support your family’s goals!
That said, the idea of family therapy can be daunting. If you’ve never been to therapy before (or only ever engaged in individual therapy), you may be wondering what family therapy might look like.
How is it possible to work on something with so many people and opinions present? How does a therapist help you communicate? Better yet, how do you get the most out of family therapy?
Understanding Family Therapy
According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, approximately 90% of clients seeing a family therapist report improved their emotional health. This high success rate demonstrates that a family-based approach works!
Family therapists work from the perspective that every individual is part of a connected system. In family therapy sessions, the therapist works to support improved relationships between the members of this more extensive system. Some therapists consider the family relationship to be the client instead of identifying one family member as the primary client.
Family therapy sessions can vary in length and format. However, most sessions will last around 50 minutes and meet once per week. This might feel like a short amount of time to work through complex family problems, so what can you do to make the most of it?
How Can You Prepare for Family Therapy?
Having the right mindset is vital for getting the most out of your sessions. Here are some key takeaways to consider.
Make a Plan
It may be helpful for each family member to prepare some notes of what they would like to discuss in the session. This might include questions for the therapist, things they would like to bring up to someone in the family, or something they would like to explain.
Make Sure Everyone Is on Board
Family therapy has been proven to be effective for a wide variety of issues, such as communication, closeness, and boundaries. In general, it can support overall improvements in family functioning.
To maximize the effectiveness of family therapy, it is crucial that everyone is a willing participant in the process. If they're not, try to reframe the situation as a positive opportunity for growth.
Self-care is a vital part of the therapy process, both before and after your appointment. For example, before you meet for family therapy, it may be helpful to take a walk, listen to your favorite song, journal, or meditate. Give yourself some time to calm your mind and body before the hard work of therapy begins.
It can also be helpful to make time for yourself after the session. You might take your own car to listen to music on the way home or go straight from the session to the gym. After the session, self-care can help you process what happened and calm your mind and body for the rest of your day.
Your therapist should be an expert listener, and family therapy is an excellent opportunity for you to practice your active listening skills, too!
Focus on listening to understand and pay attention to the details being shared. You may notice that you have questions about what is being shared. Take the time to listen and reflect on what your family members are saying, and you may hear them in a new way.
Everyone is different, and everyone’s process in therapy will also be different. In family therapy, you may want everyone in your family to heal, process, or change at the same time- however, this usually isn’t the case.
Practice patience and allow each member of the family to heal at their own pace. Long-lasting change takes time, so don’t be disheartened if the process doesn’t move as quickly as you would like it to. Instead, stay patient and keep working hard!
Let Go of High Expectations
It is natural to hope for a specific outcome or resolution in family therapy. In fact, everyone in your family likely has their own set of expectations. It is helpful to let go of any rigid expectations and stay open to the process.
You may find that the outcome you hoped for is not possible or that another solution better meets your needs. Openness and communication will help each member of your family meet their individual and group needs in therapy.
Final Thoughts on Family Therapy
Family can be complex, and family therapy can be complicated, too! If you are considering this type of work, remember that the process can take time. If you want to make the most out of family therapy, it is helpful to understand the format, practice listening, embrace patience, take care of yourself as an individual, and let go of your expectations.
At The Resurface Group, we believe entire family systems can change and heal. We are here for you and your loved ones. Contact us today to learn more!