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Family Therapy

Systemic Therapy, also known as Family Therapy, is an approach that works not only with individuals but also with families and those who are in close relationships. This way the possible changes are viewed in terms of the systems of interaction between each person in the family or relationship.

The aim of therapy is to work on the difficulties by encouraging family members and loved ones to help and empathise with each other. They are given the opportunity to understand and appreciate each other's needs, build on family strengths and ultimately make useful changes in their lives and relationships.

What is family/systemic therapy?

Systemic therapy was originally a therapeutic adaptation of a larger interdisciplinary field known as Systems Theory.

Systems Theory is a study of the complex systems present in nature, science and society, and its framework investigates and describes any group of objects that work together to produce a result. This could be a single organism such as a plant or a single human, or it could apply to a large organization or indeed a family.

How can family therapy help?

Family therapy and systemic practice supports the notion that family relationships form a key part of the emotional health of each member within that family. This type of therapy can help people who care for each other find ways to cope collaboratively with any distress, misunderstanding and pain that is affecting their relationships and putting a strain on the family unit.

Common problems that a family therapist will work with include stressful and traumatic life events such as: divorce and separation, illness or death of a loved one, and transitional stages of family development that can cause pain and upset. Work and school-related problems, psychosexual difficulties and parent-child conflict can also be explored through family therapy.

Essentially, by evaluating these issues and providing support, family therapy can help families and individuals to better understand how their family functions, identify strengths and weaknesses within the family system, set goals and devise strategies to resolve problems, develop their communication skills, make the entire family unit stronger.

Who can benefit from family therapy?

As well as addressing a range of problems and health conditions, family therapy is sensitive to diverse family forms and relationships, beliefs and cultures. It is also considerate of the needs and problems of each individual within a family unit and takes into account all other key relationships in people's lives. This makes it a useful approach for people of all ages and backgrounds.

What does family therapy involve?

Family therapy will typically take place in the form of sessions in which individuals and their close ones will be brought together with a family therapist to discuss the issues that are affecting their relationships. These sessions - and the family therapy techniques used - will be adapted according to the therapy goals and the ages, needs, resources and preferences of the individuals involved.

What happens during a session?

Generally we, as family therapists, will aim to adopt an approach that does not take sides or blame individuals, but instead engages families in sharing understanding and views with each other - getting them to discuss the problems that are putting a strain on their relationships. By supporting this system of interaction, and giving everyone an opportunity to contribute to discussion, family therapy enables family members to explore ways forward.

The number of family members who attend each session can vary, depending on therapy goals. In some cases we can work individually, and in others we will both collaborate either by both performing the therapy or by one being the observant of the process. By this way, we can be in the best position to share reflections and explore possibilities to help resolve the issues of the family. Many families find this approach to complex issues very helpful.

Sessions can last from between 60 and 90 minutes, and intervals between each one could be several weeks at a time depending on various factors, such as the problems being addressed, the stage of treatment and the needs of family members. Ultimately all elements of family therapy, including the setting, family therapy techniques and length of sessions will result from a collaboration and mutual agreement between us and family.

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