First Time User? Enroll now.
As the COVID-19 situation has evolved, our visitor policy is evolving as well. Get full details.
For the most current information, please visit our Coronavirus resource pages.
Home > Health Library > Family Therapy
Family therapy is based on the belief that the family is a unique social system with its own structure and patterns of communication. These patterns are determined by many things, including the parents' beliefs and values, the personalities of all family members, and the influence of the extended family (grandparents, aunts, and uncles). As a result of these variables, each family develops its own unique personality, which is powerful and affects all of its members.
Family therapy is based on the following concepts as well.
Health professionals who use the family systems model in caring for people always consider the whole family. They view any problem in one member as a symptom of change or conflict in the group.
A family therapist:
During therapy sessions, the family's strengths are used to help them handle their problems. All members take responsibility for problems. Some family members may need to change their behavior more than others.
Family therapy is a very active type of therapy, and family members are often given assignments. For example, parents may be asked to delegate more responsibilities to their children.
The number of sessions required varies, depending on the severity of the problems and the willingness of the members to participate in therapy. The family and the therapist set mutual goals and discuss the length of time expected to achieve the goals. Not all members of the family attend each session.
People who participate in family therapy sessions learn more about themselves and about how their family functions.
Anyone who has a condition that interferes with his or her life and the lives of family members may benefit from family therapy. Usually, the better the family functions, the lower the stress level for the person with the health problem.
Family therapy has been used successfully to treat many different types of families in many different situations, including those in which:
Family therapy can also be useful before problems begin. Some families seek this type of therapy when they anticipate a major change in their lives. For example, a man and woman who both have children from previous marriages may go to family therapy when they marry to help all family members learn how to live together.
The concepts of family therapy can also be used in individual therapy sessions and are very helpful for people who come from families in which there is illness and/or other problems. Adults who lived in poorly functioning families as children may benefit from individual therapy using family therapy concepts.
Family therapy is useful in dealing with relationship problems within the family and may help reduce symptoms such as eating disorders or alcohol use problems. But more specific types of therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or medicines, may be needed too.
Current as of:
June 16, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Adam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineChristine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health
Current as of: June 16, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Christine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.