Why I Still Recommend Family Therapy

Why I Still Recommend Family Therapy
February 27, 2013
Over 25 years ago my partners and I founded the Centers for Family Change. One of our motivations, at that time, was to develop a private practice that emphasized family therapy as the primary modality or approach. It was our belief that the most effective way to address many common childhood and adolescent problems was with family therapy. In a series of posts I will discuss why I still believe that family therapy is the best way to address many problems facing children and adolescents. These posts will examine topics such as: the original arguments/rational for family therapy; the elegant simplicity and common sense truths of Structural and Strategic family therapy models; the factors that appear to have stymied the use of family therapy; and a call for more family therapy and examples of how family therapy fits for many problems of childhood and adolescence including ADHD, anxiety disorders, underachievement and defiant and oppositional behavior.
Let me begin this discussion by indicating that I understand why many therapists do not do family therapy, and why many families do not seek it out.
Family therapy is harder than individual therapy:
• the views of more than one person have to be understood, addressed and balanced.
• patterns of interaction need to be identified and tracked; therapists need to think in terms of how systems work in addition to examining feelings and beliefs.
• conflicts can occur quickly and become quite intense.
• the therapist cannot just empathize with and understand the perspective on only one person; there are multiple perspectives and truths to balance.
Families often do not prefer or event want family therapy:
• teenagers may want the privacy and autonomy offered by individual therapy.
• parents may believe the problem lies completely within their child.
• family members may not want to address difficult and painful family issues.
Logistical Challenges exist:
• it is hard to schedule families, more evening or weekend hours are needed.
• insurance may not want to pay for family therapy.
• training programs may not have provided adequate training in family therapy.
Despite these challenges, and in some cases because of them, family therapy is often called for. Unaddressed issues, multiple perspectives on problems, unresolved conflicts, and problematic patterns of interaction all may need to be addressed to effectively resolve problems. Failing to fully consider these problems may hinder or prevent individual therapy from succeeding, where family therapy, despite its challenges, can.

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