What to know about family therapy
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06-26-15 Category: Therapy


Most people have a family member that he or she may turn to in times of need. This may be a parent, sibling, aunt, uncle or other trusted figure. Yet when a family member is vulnerable to substance abuse or a health disorder, family therapy may be a powerful means of recovery for many participants. Most people have a personality that is, among other key factors, defined by one’s early environment. Family is therefore often a key link in providing vital information about a patient.

The advantages of family therapy are multi-faceted, yet it has been shown to be especially helpful in certain circumstances. If a family is experiencing a major life change, such as a divorce or a passing, then treatment may prove helpful in some circumstances for clients. A certain conflict that has proven damaging to the family unit may be addressed or perhaps the role of family will be determined on a personal level.


Family therapy may provide a number of desired results for families learning to cope with a member being diagnosed with a disorder. The participant will be afforded a better understanding of how his or her family functions. Positive attributes may be identified and improved on, whereas negative attributes may be minimized. New means of conflict resolution may be realized. Better, improved communication may be facilitated as well. Perhaps there are differences between parents or siblings that lead to extreme, emotional conflict. A parent and child relationship may also be under strain, such as due to substance abuse or teenage rebelliousness. Family therapy is able to help individuals deal with this type of conflict in a healthy and safe manner and seek solutions as well.

When to start

This form of treatment is most often initiated after a client has made significant advancements in treatment. This could be anywhere from months to years after a client has first entered a program. The bottom line is that a patient should be committed to the idea of recovery at the point that he or she agrees to group therapy. Otherwise, such barriers could make this treatment option much less effective due to lack of cooperation. This is one area where people can still apply the old principle of helping oneself before being able to more effectively help others.

Who performs family therapy?

Many different medical professionals may practice family therapy. This may include psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed therapists and more. However, it will be important for those who practice to have the particular training and skills which are required for this treatment. Respect will go a long way in helping the medical professional to be a positive force in this setting. Children will need to learn to be respectful of the professional despite the personal family troubles taking place. Everyone should be treated fairly and be allowed to contribute to sessions as he or she best sees fit. Others close to the family may also be involved at one point or another as well such as a close friend who has insight into the dysfunctional family dynamics.


There are a number of different considerations for therapy, depending on the specific circumstances that a family is experiencing. This may include meetings in which only certain family members attend or perhaps individual therapy with one person in particular. The professional may refer participants to other forms of counseling to further assist in recovery such as Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy or alternative forms of therapy

CBT can allow family members better insight on how to create more constructive thought and behaviors. Similarly, psychodynamic therapy helps participants closely examine recurring family and childhood themes  to develop new and improved forms of communication.

At appropriate times, the medical professional may request family members fulfill a personal assignment before returning the following week. This may include a family togetherness activity, such as eating out at a restaurant that everyone enjoys. Yet before such progress is made, it can be necessary to overcome any obstacles to participation such as family members who are unwilling to participate, lack of trust or even outright refusal to discuss certain issues. Only when the different obstacles presented by either patient and/or their family members are overcome can family therapy truly begin providing substantial help.

Treatment outcomes

Family therapy does have its place in treatment, as recovery plans that include have been shown to be more effective than those that do not. Those with a health disorder have demonstrated better odds of recovery with a holistic approach including individual and group therapy. Family therapy may also play a role in making treatment longer lasting overall. Other family members could be less likely to engage in substance abuse following proper recovery. Because the family unit has the potential to be among the strongest bonds in a person’s life, it is not hard to see how this treatment can have a strong effect on patients if its potential is explored.

Sovereign Health of California offers the finest treatment for individual patients facing addiction, mental health disorders or co-occurring disorders. Our treatment programs utilize family therapy to better facilitate understanding and help allow for more constructive, positive thoughts and behaviors in the family unit. To learn more about our programs you can contact us over the phone or through our online chat.

Written by Sovereign Health Writer, Ryan McMaster

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