If your family is beginning family therapy, it is important that the appropriate members attend. The concerns that brought your family to therapy may dictate who should be there. Here, therapists explain circumstances that require different family members for therapy to be successful:
LuAnn Pierce, LCSW: Ideally, everyone in the immediate family will participate in family therapy. In some cases, it might be helpful to include other family members if they are involved in the problems that need to be addressed.
For example, if a couple comes in and raises concerns that grandparents, aunts, or uncles are sabotaging their parenting efforts, it would be helpful to include these people in some of the sessions. The same would be true if one spouse is having problems with his/her in-laws. They may only need to attend a few sessions unless the focus of the therapy includes them.
In family therapy it is important to have everyone involved unless children are too young to understand the issues, or the issues are inappropriate for their age. There are some issues that need to be addressed by adults that children need not be burdened with. At times, there may be issues that involve older teens that are not appropriate for younger children.
The therapist will determine who needs to be present for sessions based on what issues are being addressed. If something comes up in a session that is inappropriate for younger children, the therapist will usually intervene, perhaps asking that the younger children leave the room or that the issue be tabled until another time.
Ruth Hoffman Cooper, MFT: It depends a great deal on the family issues involved, and the ages of the family members. The therapist should discuss this question with you on the phone prior to the first session. Who attends sessions is an important therapeutic decision. Although it may be uncomfortable for you to think of including young children in a session, it may be very helpful in resolving the issues, so try to follow your therapist’s request for who should be present.
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