One of the most intricate therapy techniques out there, family therapy can be extremely helpful to families in crisis, groups of people in transition, and even in the workplace. While many people think of family therapy as something that families attend as they navigate loss, divorce, separation, or other specific challenges, the truth is that family therapy can be used for many reasons.
If you’ve always wondered what family therapy might be able to do for you or the people in your life, read on to find out how this systemic therapeutic modality is set up to untangle toxic group dynamics.
Family Therapy 101
The biggest difference between traditional family therapy and individual talk therapy is that family therapy modalities take into account the therapeutic processes of group systems. Based on the idea that groups of people are directly and indirectly impacted by the actions, emotions, and behaviors of others in their system, family therapy is a systemic way of thinking about psychology on a macro level.
Family therapists are trained to understand the attachments, behaviors, and relationship patterns that people learn in their families of origin. When left without intervention, toxic family patterns can be passed down and repeated in families in cycles. Family therapists are trained to help individual family members identify and build on positive behaviors and break negative cycles.
Systems Theory and How It Works
Even if you’ve never heard of systemic therapy, systems theory, and group dynamics therapy, the most important thing to know is that family therapy was created to look at intimate relationships. Therapists will be able to give you tools for the entire family and individuals in the system including the person struggling most, otherwise known as the identified patient.
Family therapists can help family members to identify patterns of differentiation. Based on psychologist Murry Bowen’s family systems theories, healthy differentiation levels within families is key to a healthy overall system. They will give you tools to define yourself, your role in the family, set healthy boundaries, and find ways to remain connected even in times of change: all keys to healthy differentiation in enmeshed or toxic systems.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Any family therapist will tell you that the family cycles in your family of origin are bound to repeat themselves until they’re identified. In family therapy, you’ll have the opportunity to role-play new experiences, practice different types of communication, and rewrite your family’s story and future. By building healthier communication styles, such as avoiding triangulation and replacing it with transparent and honest conversations, your family will have the tools it needs for years to come.
Research shows that group therapy, including family therapy, is a great way to practice communication techniques in your relationships with the help of a trained family therapist that can improve social functioning, help with adjustment to change, and even work in other group settings. This is because your communication skills in general will be better with tools and resources like the ability to name relationship dances and mirroring. Even if your family group only needs a small therapy tweak, you can bring these new skills with you into your office, at school, or in any group setting.
At the end of the day, whether you’re the identified patient, a concerned parent, or just looking to improve your relationships and coping skills, family therapy could be a great way to help you and the people you care about. Start by calling a therapy group today and asking to speak to a licensed marriage and family therapist. They’ll be able to help you determine the right style of group therapy for you.