Bradley D. Ogilvie, MS, LPC, LMFT: The purpose of family therapy is to help families work through struggles, challenges, and tough times in a way that doesn’t simply have the problem go away, but makes the family stronger. Almost all families enter into therapy because something unpleasant is going on—the illness of a child, addictions, behavioral problems, or relational problems. These stressors take a toll on everyone. Family therapy is a means to help cope with these stressors, which is different than making them go away.Letting go is often a part of family therapy—whether it is grieving the loss of a child, or letting go of expectations so we can heal and embrace our present reality while working to a better future. When we try too hard to change circumstances or people without first accepting the truth of “what is,” we can inadvertently move in the wrong direction. But, when we learn to accept what is, and bring intentionality to the processes of how we cope, get along, and respond to each other, we can change the patterns of the family in good ways.Family therapy is really about using the power of relationships and love to support each member to be as healthy and whole as possible, which in turn creates a healthier family.
LuAnn Pierce, LCSW: The goal of family therapy is to improve the relationships and functioning of the members of a family unit. The family unit may include anyone the members identify as family and/or those who are involved in the issues being addressed. This may include grandparents, aunt, uncles, foster children, girlfriends or boyfriends, nannies, babysitters, and more.In family therapy, the family unit is viewed as a whole. The family unit is often compared to a mobile that is balanced when all of the individual parts are functioning properly. Remove or damage one of the individual pieces of a mobile or family, and the unit becomes unstable. In families, this can happen when one person becomes ill, someone has a problem with alcohol or drugs or other issues that prohibit him/her from fulfilling his/her role and purpose in the family.Families frequently come in for therapy when there is conflict between family members, or when one member has a problem that impacts the whole family. People with drinking or drug problems and mental health problems often come to family therapy in addition to their individual treatment. The goal of the therapy is to help family members identify how specific behaviors affect others, learn new ways of relating to each other, resolve conflicts, and open lines of communication between all family members.
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