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Family therapy is a structured form of psychotherapy that is intended to initiate change and reduce distress and conflict by “improving the systems of interactions between family members.”

The role of a family therapist is to facilitate conversations that act as catalysts to strengthen and improve existing connections between family members. The important piece of family therapy is not in the number of people involved in the session but in the analytical framework and perspective. Family therapy relies on family systems theory to treat a family unit by addressing and shifting the way the entire family system functions as a whole, rather than treating each family member individually. There are a variety of family therapy techniques that can be effective. The four main techniques that are most widely utilized in family therapy include structural, intergenerational, strategic, and systemic. 

Structural Family Therapy

Salvador Minuchin developed structural family therapy. This approach is based on the fundamental idea that the family structure is responsible for its problems. More specifically, Minuchin believed a family needed to maintain a certain hierarchy and boundaries to remain healthy. One of the essential tools of structural family therapy is the completion of a structural map, where the boundaries and hierarchies of a family are illustrated. Minuchin believed that families would often employ triangulation, a process where a third person is used to cover up issues between two family members. For this reason, in structural family therapy, the facilitating clinician directs the family toward change within the session. 

Bowenian: Intergenerational Family Therapy

Intergenerational family therapy was developed by Murray Bowen. This approach recognizes generational influences on family and individual behavior. Genograms are used as an essential tool to identify intergenerational family dynamics. Bowen believed that the goal of therapy was self-differentiation (the ability to separate thoughts from feelings). Since self-differentiation is an individual process, through the Bowenian technique clinicians can work with single-family members instead of requiring multiple family members to take part. This approach operates under the assumption that dynamics within a family often reside in triads and the role of the therapist is to point out dynamics as a neutral coach and educator. 

Strategic Family Therapy

Milton Erickson and Jay Haley worked together to developed strategic family therapy. This approach is driven by the idea that a family maintains problems through repeated responses to family interactions. Paradoxical intention is one of the main techniques used in strategic family therapy. The clinician will help family members learn applicable techniques for solving problems specific to the family’s interaction and structure. However, unlike structural family therapy, most of the work is done outside the therapy session. The therapist will assign the family homework and suggest that they experiment with new responses to recurring problems. 

Milan Model: Systemic Family Therapy

In systemic family therapy, problems are approached practically rather than analytically. This technique believes that a family member develops symptoms to cope with the behavior of other members of the family. Identifying stagnant patterns of behavior within a living system and changing one person’s actions, can, in turn, help shift the entire family system, as everyone is believed to be interconnected. One of the main techniques of systemic family therapy is called circular questioning, which aims to make someone think about the connections between family members. The primary goal of the clinician is to remain a neutral figure while challenging family members to question their knowledge of the family system, which in turn will lead them to change their behavior. 

Further Information and Support

Navigating the challenges that arise from living with mental illness, struggling with substance abuse, and/ or addiction can not only be all-consuming but are often impossible to effectively handle without proper support. If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding mental illness, substance abuse, and/ or addiction we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. Bear in mind that you do not have to be on this journey alone. At {Upwell Advisors}, we offer unique, customized concierge therapeutic services to provide our clients with unparalleled support throughout every step of the recovery process. 

Feel free to reach to contact us anytime via email at sean@upwelladvisors.com. We look forward to supporting you on your journey.

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