What is Family Therapy Really?

Family therapy is designed, first and foremost, to address various sources of pain held within a family. The focus is breaking down walls, clearing up muddled and hidden communication, and practicing speaking one’s peace in a safe space. Everyone’s family is different and families don’t always work the way one imagines them to.

Family therapy stands in contrast to individual therapy: “The assumption in this type of therapy is that problems cannot be successfully addressed or solved without understanding the dynamics of the group. The way the family operates influences how the client’s problems formed and how they are encouraged or enabled by the other members of the family”, explained Courtney Ackerman, a graduate of the Positive Organizational Psychology and Evaluation Program at Claremont Graduate University.

When for whatever reason family positive growth is stunted or stalled, family therapy can be enormously helpful. Family systems need to change, adapt and reorganize themselves in order to accommodate individuals’ development needs. Family therapy can be especially useful during times of transition. Transitions tend to be a stressful time for families and often include:


Identity confusion

Role strain/ Role confusion

Shift in boundaries (formation of coalitions/ alliances/ triangles)

Unmet wants and needs

Poor coping and problem solving

Decrease un-effective communication

Increased conflict/ decreased relationship satisfaction

Manifestation of health symptoms

Feelings of incompetence/ insecurity

It is useful because, as Ackerman states, “Family therapy can enhance skills required for healthy family functioning, including communication, conflict resolution, and problem-solving.” When a family equips its members with the tools and skills to be successful, addressing family issues becomes less problematic and overwhelming. Building honesty, trust, empathy, boundaries, and compassion builds and strengthens the family bonds, ensuring that family is functioning at peak performance. Don’t let your family fall apart when there is help available to you.


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