What Is Family Therapy? + 6 Techniques & Interventions

What is Family Therapy and What Are Its Goals And Benefits?

We all start this life with a family, whether that family is composed of blood relatives, adopted parents, a close-knit neighborhood, or a foster family.

This family that we acquire when we are born influences every aspect of our lives, from our first moments to our last.

Our family affects who we are and who we become, for better and for worse. We learn our vocabulary, our habits, our customs and rituals, and how to view and observe the world around us.

We also learn how to love and how to interact with others from these first important relationships.

If we are born into a healthy family with healthy relationships, we are likely to learn how to maintain healthy relationships. If we are born into a dysfunctional family that struggles to connect, we may also struggle to connect with others.

While it is certainly unlucky to be born into the second kind of family, it’s not an unchangeable situation. Nearly all families deal with some sort of dysfunction at one time or another, yet most families retain or regain a sense of wholeness and happiness.

Family therapy offers families a way to do this—a way to develop or maintain a healthy, functional family.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Relationships Exercises for free. These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients build healthy, life-enriching relationships.

What is Family Therapy / Family Counseling?

Family therapy or family counseling is a form of treatment that is designed to address specific issues affecting the health and functioning of a family. It can be used to help a family through a difficult period, a major transition, or mental or behavioral health problems in family members (“Family Therapy”, 2014).

As Dr. Michael Herkov explains, family therapy views individuals’ problems in the context of the larger unit: the family (2016). The assumption of 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 other members of their family.

Family therapy can employ techniques and exercises from cognitive therapy, behavior therapy, interpersonal therapy, or other types of individual therapy. Like with other types of treatment, the techniques employed will depend on the specific problems the client or clients present with.

Behavioral or emotional problems in children are common reasons to visit a family therapist. A child’s problems do not exist in a vacuum; they exist, and will likely need to be addressed, within the context of the family (Herkov, 2016).

It should be noted that in family therapy or counseling, the term “family” does not necessarily mean blood relatives. In this context, “family” is anyone who “plays a long-term supportive role in one’s life, which may not mean blood relations or family members in the same household” (King, 2017).

According to Licensed Clinical Social Worker Laney Cline King, these are the most common types of family therapy:

  • Bowenian: this form of family therapy is best suited for situations in which individuals cannot or do not want to involve other family members in the treatment. Bowenian therapy is built on two core concepts: triangulation (the natural tendency to vent or distress by talking to a third party) and differentiation (learning to become less emotionally reactive in family relationships);

  • Structural: Structural therapy focuses on adjusting and strengthening the family system to ensure that the parents are in control and that both children and adults set appropriate boundaries. In this form of therapy, the therapist “joins” the family in order to observe, learn, and enhance their ability to help the family strengthen their relationships;

  • Systemic: The Systemic model refers to the type of therapy that focuses on the unconscious communications and meanings behind family members’ behaviors. The therapist in this form of treatment is neutral and distant, allowing the family members to dive deeper into their issues and problems as a family;

  • Strategic: This form of therapy is more brief and direct than the others, in which the therapist assigns homework to the family. This homework is intended to change the way family members interact by assessing and adjusting the way the family communicates and makes decisions. The therapist takes the position of power in this type of therapy, which allows other family members who may not usually hold as much power to communicate more effectively (King, 2017).


What is a Family Counselor Trained For?

What is a Family Counselor Trained For?As the different types of therapy described above show, a family therapist may be called upon to take on many different roles.

These many roles require a family therapist to undergo a great deal of training, formal education, and testing to ensure that the therapist is up to the task.

“In this therapy, the therapist takes responsibility for the outcome of the therapy. This has nothing to do with good or bad, guilt or innocence, right or wrong. It is the simple acknowledgement that you make a difference.”

Eileen Bobrow

While therapists may have different methods and preferred treatment techniques, they must all have at least a minimum level of experience with the treatment of:

  • Child and adolescent behavioral problems;
  • Grieving;
  • Depression and anxiety;
  • LGBTQ issues;
  • Domestic violence;
  • Infertility;
  • Marital conflicts;
  • Substance abuse (All Psychology Schools, 2017).

In order to treat these and other family issues, therapists must:

  • Observe how people interact within units;
  • Evaluate and resolve relationship problems;
  • Diagnose and treat psychological disorders within a family context;
  • Guide clients through transitional crises such as divorce or death;
  • Highlight problematic relational or behavioral patterns;
  • Help replace dysfunctional behaviors with healthy alternatives;
  • Take a holistic (mind-body) approach to wellness (All Psychology Schools, 2017).

In order to gain the skills necessary to perform these functions, a family therapist usually obtains a bachelor’s degree in counseling, psychology, sociology, or social work, followed by a master’s degree in counseling or marriage and family therapy.

Next, the therapist will most likely need to complete two years of supervised work after graduation, for a total of 2,000 to 4,000 hours of clinical experience. When these requirements are met, the therapist will also likely need to pass a state-sanctioned exam, as well as complete annual continuing education courses.

This education trains therapists for guidance with a wide range of problems, including:

  • Personal conflicts within couples or families;
  • Unexpected illness, death, or unemployment;
  • Developing or maintaining a healthy romantic relationship at any stage;
  • Behavioral problems in children;
  • Divorce or separation;
  • Substance abuse or addiction;
  • Mental health problems like depression and anxiety.

This wide range of problems makes it clear that the answer to “What is a family therapist NOT trained to do?” may be shorter than the question of what they ARE trained to do!

To learn more about how marriage and family therapists are trained and how they practice their craft, the following websites are great resources:

  • The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy website;
  • The All Psychology Schools website;
  • The Careers in Psychology website;
  • The Marriage and Family Therapist Licensure website;
  • The Learn website.


What is the Goal of Family Therapy?

What is the Goal of Family Therapy

“To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.”


In a nutshell, the goal of family therapy is to work together to heal any mental, emotional, or psychological problems tearing your family apart (Lee, 2010).

To guide a family towards a healthy life, family therapists aim to aid people in improving communication, solving family problems, understanding and handling family situations, and creating a better functioning home environment (Family Therapy, 2017A).

The goals of family therapy depend on the presenting problems of the clients. For example, goals may differ based on the following scenarios:

  • A family member is suffering from schizophrenia or severe psychosis: The goal is to help other family members understand the disorder and adjust to the psychological changes that the patient may be undergoing;

  • Problems arising from cross-generational boundaries, such as when parents share a home with grandparents, or children are being raised by grandparents: The goal is to improve communication and help the family members set healthy boundaries;

  • Families deviating from social norms (unmarried parents, gay couples raising children, etc.): The goals here are not always to address any specific internal problems, but the family members may need help coping with external factors like societal attitudes;

  • Family members who come from mixed racial, cultural, or religious backgrounds: The goal is to help family members further their understanding of one another and develop healthy relationships;

  • One member is being scapegoated or having their treatment in individual therapy undermined: When one family member is struggling with feeling like the outcast or receives limited support from other family members, the goal is to facilitate increased empathy and understanding for the individual within their family and provide support for them to continue their treatment;

  • The patient’s problems seem inextricably tied to problems with other family members: In cases where the problem or problems are deeply rooted in problems with other family members, the goal is to address each of the contributing issues and solve or mitigate the effects of this pattern of problems;

  • A blended family (i.e., step-family): Blended families can suffer from problems unique to their situations. In blended families, the goal of family therapy is to enhance understanding and facilitate healthy interactions between family members (Family Therapy, 2017B).


Family Psychotherapy: Taking it One Step Further

We tend to think of therapy and psychotherapy as two different forms of treatment, but in fact, they are the same thing. This ambiguity is enhanced when we introduce the term “counseling” as well.

In truth, therapy is simply a shortened form of the word “psychotherapy”. However, counseling is sometimes called “talk therapy,” blurring the lines even further (Eder, “What is the Difference”).

Generally, counseling is applied in situations where an individual (or, in the case of family counseling, a family) engages the services of a counselor or other mental health professional to help with a specific problem or set of problems.

Therapy, or psychotherapy, is a more in-depth and usually long-term form of treatment in which the client or clients discuss a wider range of issues and chronic patterns of problematic feelings, thoughts, and behaviors (Eder, “What is the Difference”).

A family who is struggling with a situation that brings added stress, such as the death of a family member, addiction, or dire financial straits, may benefit from counseling to help them through their struggles to emerge on the other side as a stronger and more cohesive unit.

If a family is struggling with more chronic mental or behavioral problems, such as a father dealing with schizophrenia, a mother fighting depression, or a child who has been abused, psychotherapy is likely the better choice.

This type of therapy is appropriate for families with problems such as these because a family therapist has a different perspective on treatment than an individual therapist. While the individual therapist works with one client on solving or curing a problem, the family therapist views problems in the context of the “system” of the family. To solve a problem in a system, you need to consider all parts of the system.

Fixing the alternator in a car will not fix the problem if it also has flat tires, a faulty transmission, and a plugged exhaust pipe.

Issues within a family are similar to the car with several problems. A parent struggling with alcoholism is not a problem in isolation; the parent’s struggle has likely affected their spouse and their children as well. A family therapist believes that problems must be addressed at the level of the whole family rather than on an individual level (Schwartz, 2009).


What are the Benefits of Family Therapy?

This more holistic approach to treating problems within a family has proven to be extremely effective in many cases. In family therapy, families can work on their problems with the guidance of a mental health professional in a safe and controlled environment.

The benefits of family therapy include:

  • A better understanding of healthy boundaries and family patterns and dynamics;
  • Enhanced communication;
  • Improved problem solving;
  • Deeper empathy;
  • Reduced conflict and better anger management skills (10 Acre Ranch, 2017).

More specifically, family therapy can improve family relationships through:

  • Bringing the family together after a crisis;
  • Creating honesty between family members;
  • Instilling trust in family members;
  • Developing a supportive family environment;
  • Reducing sources of tension and stress within the family;
  • Helping family members forgive each other;
  • Conflict resolution for family members;
  • Bringing back family members who have been isolated (American Addiction Centers, 2017).

Family therapy enhances the skills required for healthy family functioning, including communication, conflict resolution, and problem-solving. Improving these skills also increases the potential for success in overcoming and addressing family problems.

In family therapy, the focus is on providing all family members with the tools they need to facilitate healing (Teen Treatment Center, 2014).


6 Examples and Exercises

Colored Candy Go Around family therapy tools If family therapy sounds like a treatment that would benefit you and your loved ones, the best course of action is to find a licensed professional with whom you can build a good working relationship and address the problems your family is facing.

However, if you’re not quite ready for this step, or there are obstacles between you and getting treatment, there are many exercises and suggestions that you may find to be good alternatives.

The exercises and techniques below are meant to be used within the context of a therapeutic working relationship, but some also have applications for those who wish to explore the possibilities of family therapy before committing to long-term treatment with a therapist. If you are a therapist or other mental health professional, you may find these exercises to be useful additions to your therapy toolbox.


The Miracle Question

This exercise can be used in individual, couples, or family therapy, and is intended to help the client(s) explore the type of future they would like to build. We all struggle at times, but sometimes the struggle is greater because we simply do not know what our goals actually are.

The Miracle Question is an excellent way to help the client or clients probe their own dreams and desires. When used in the context of couples or family therapy, it can aid clients in understanding what their significant other or family member needs in order to be happy with their relationship.

This Miracle Question is posed as follows:

“Suppose tonight, while you slept, a miracle occurred. When you awake tomorrow, what would be some of the things you would notice that would tell you life had suddenly gotten better?”

(Howes, 2010)

While the client may give an answer that is an impossibility in their waking life, their answer can still be useful. If they do give an impossible answer, the therapist can dive deeper into the clients’ preferred miracle with this question: “How would that make a difference?”

This question aids both the client and the therapist—the client in envisioning a positive future in which their problems are addressed or mitigated, and the therapist in learning how they can best help their client in their sessions.

You can learn more about this exercise using the Miracle Worksheet.


Colored Candy Go Around

If you’re looking for a fun and creative icebreaker or introduction to family therapy, this exercise can be a great way to start.

To engage in this exercise with your family, you need a package of Skittles, M&Ms, or a similar colorful candy. Distribute seven pieces to each family member, and instruct them to sort their candy by color (and refraining from eating it just yet!).

Next, ask a family member to pick a color and share how many they have. For however many candies of this color they have, instruct them to give the same number of responses to the following prompts based on the color:

  • Green – words to describe your family;
  • Purple – ways your family has fun;
  • Orange – things you would like to improve about your family;
  • Red – things you worry about;
  • Yellow – favorite memories with your family.

Family Therapy Exercises. Image Courtesy of Wikimedia.

When the first family member has given their answers, tell them to choose the next family member to answer the same prompt based on the number of candies that person has.

Once the prompt has been answered, the candies can be eaten.

When all family members have responded to these prompts, initiate a discussion based on the answers provided by the family. The following questions can facilitate discussion:

  1. What did you learn?
  2. What was the most surprising thing you learned about someone else?
  3. How will you work towards making changes/improvements?

Given the high sugar content in this exercise, you can see that this is a great game to play with young children! If this sounds like a useful exercise that you would like to try with your family, you can find further information and instructions on page 3 of this PDF from therapist Liana Lowenstein.


Emotions Ball

This is a simple exercise, requiring only a ball and a pen or marker to write with. It is frequently used with children and teenagers in many contexts, as it takes the pressure off of talking about emotions for those who may be uncomfortable sharing their feelings.

A beach ball is a perfect ball for this activity—big enough to write several emotions on and easy to throw back and forth in a circle. Write several emotions on the ball, such as “joyful,” “lonely,” “silly,” or “sad.”

Gather your family into a circle and begin to toss the ball back and forth between family members. When a family member catches the ball, have them describe a time when they felt the emotion facing them. Alternatively, you could have the catcher act out an emotion, an activity specially suited for children.

The intent of this exercise is to discuss emotions with your family and practice listening to one another and expressing your feelings.

You can read more about this exercise here.


The Family Gift

This exercise can help a therapist to get to know a family better. If you are using it without the guidance of a therapist, it can help you to further your understanding of your own family and provoke thoughtful discussion.

To give this exercise a try, gather a variety of art supplies and a gift bag. Explain to the family that they are going to create a gift from the materials provided. This gift will be a gift for the whole family, that everyone in the family wants. They must decide together on this gift and how it can be used within their family.

They have 30 minutes to decide on this gift and craft it. Once they have created the gift, they must place it in the gift bag. Within the context of family therapy, this exercise provides the therapist with a look at the inner workings of the family, how they make decisions and complete tasks as a unit.

If you are engaging in this exercise as a family without the presence of a therapist, it can help you to start a meaningful conversation.

Use these questions or prompts to facilitate the discussion:

  1. Describe your gift.
  2. Tell how you each felt as you were creating your gift.
  3. Who made the decisions? For example, who decided what the gift should be?
  4. Were two or more people in your family able to work well together?
  5. Did anyone cause any difficulties or disagreements, and if so, how was this handled?
  6. Is there anything about the way you did the activity that reminds you of how things work in your family at home?
  7. How can the gift help your family? What else can help your family?

There is a wealth of information to be gained from observing these types of interactions or engaging in these kinds of discussion.

To read more about this exercise, see pages 3 and 4 of the PDF mentioned earlier.


Mirroring Activity

mirroring game family therapy This fun exercise is a great way to help family members relate to each other and work together.

The activity can be explained to a family by the therapist with the following instructions:

“I want you to stand in front of me just right there (pointing to a spot about two feet in front of the practitioner). You are going to be my mirror. Everything I do you will try to copy, but the trick is to copy me at exactly the same time that I am doing it, so that you are my mirror. I will go slowly so you have a chance to think about where I will be moving and so that we can do it exactly at the same time. We can’t touch each other. I will lead first and then you will take a turn leading. Ready? Here we go!”

First, the therapist can model this exercise with one of the family members, then that person can take a turn leading another.

This is an especially useful exercise for children, but it can be used with family members of any age. It requires the family members to give each other their full attention, cooperate with one another, and communicate with both words and body language.

It also allows the family members to become more in tune with one another and can be applied with siblings, a parent, a child, or even couples in marriage counseling.

To see the instructions and read more about this exercise, see page 20 of this booklet, also from Liana Lowenstein.



A genogram is a schematic or graphic representation of a client’s family tree. However, unlike the typical family tree, the genogram provides far more information on the relationships among members of the family.

It can be used to map out blood relations, medical conditions in the family, and, most often in the case of family therapy, emotional relationships.

Genograms contain two levels of information—that which is present on the traditional family tree and that which provides a much more comprehensive look at the family:

  • Basic Information: name, gender, date of birth, date of death (if any);
  • Additional Information: education, occupation, major life events, chronic illnesses, social behaviors, nature of family relationships, emotional relationships, social relationships, alcoholism, depression, diseases, alliances, and living situations (GenoPro, 2017).

By including this additional information, the therapist and client(s) can work together to identify patterns in the family history that may have influenced the client’s current emotions and behaviors. Sometimes the simple act of mapping out and observing this information can make clear things that were previously unnoticed.

The information on emotional relationships can include points of interest and any aspects of the relationship that may have impacted the client(s), such as whether the relationship is marked by abuse, whether a marriage is separated or intact, if a relationship is characterized by love or indifference, whether a relationship could be considered “normal” or dysfunctional, etc.

This exercise could be completed individually, but it is likely to be most effective when completed in conjunction with a qualified professional.

You can learn how to use them in family therapy here.


Recommended Books

1. The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work: A practical guide from the international bestselling relationship expert – John  Gottman

The seven principles for making marriage work

This is an excellent read for any non-professionals who wish to learn more about what family therapy can do for couples.

Although this is intended for married couples, any individual in a long-term relationship can benefit from this resource of practical wisdom.

Find the book on Amazon.



2. Why Marriages Succeed or Fail – John Gottman

Why Marriages Succeed or Fail

Another entry from Dr. Gottman, this book provides an in-depth look at the inner workings of marriage and gives advice on how to ensure that your marriage is one of the successful ones.

Find the book on Amazon.





3. Family Therapy: Concepts and Methods – Michael  Nichols and Sean Davis

Family Therapy

Those with only a casual interest in family therapy may not find much of interest in this book, but anyone who wishes to gain a deeper understanding of the theory and practice of family therapy will find this book invaluable.

It gives the reader a solid foundation in the techniques, methods, and academic foundations of family therapy.

If you are interested in becoming a family therapist, or simply learning more about the practice of therapy within the context of the family, this book is a perfect place to start.

Find the book on Amazon.


4. Essential Skills in Family Therapy: From the First Interview to Termination – JoEllen Patterson, Lee Williams, Todd M. Edwards, Larry Chamow, Claudi Grauf-Grounds, and Douglas H. Sprenkle

Essential Skills in Family Therapy

This book is a fantastic resource for those with little or no experience in family therapy.

The language is simple and accessible, and each chapter provides a guide for students and newly minted therapists who wish to prepare for their first sessions.

Topics include intake and assessment, treatment planning, building and maintaining the therapeutic relationship, and problem-solving when treatment is not progressing.

Find the book on Amazon.


5. The Family Therapy Treatment Planner – Frank M. Dattilio, Arthur E. Jongsma Jr., and Sean D. Davis

The Family Therapy Treatment Planner

This is another helpful resource for new therapists.

The Family Therapy Treatment Planner will aid the therapist in planning treatment for clients, dealing with health insurance companies and health providers, and navigating the complex ocean of rules and regulations.

In addition, this book includes many treatment plan options, a sample treatment plan, and guidelines on dealing with the most common presenting problems for family therapists.

Find the book on Amazon.


A Take-Home Message

Family therapy is a way for you and your family to learn how to maintain healthy family relationships, communicate effectively with family members, and work cooperatively to solve family problems. This type of therapy is unique, in that problems are viewed through a broader lens and as part of the complex system of the family.

This perspective allows family therapists to help families get to the root of their problems and facilitates healing for all members of the family, whether the problem is related to substance abuse or addiction, abuse, mental health disorders, unexpected or dire circumstances, or just the ordinary everyday stress we all struggle with on occasion.

This piece described the benefits and goals of family therapy, introduced four of the most common types of therapy, contrasted family counseling with family psychotherapy, and provided examples of the exercises and techniques used in family therapy.

My hope is that you find this information useful whether you are interested in engaging with a family therapist, becoming a family therapist, or just learning more about family therapy.

If you have ever participated in family therapy or if you have practiced family therapy in your work as a mental health professional, we’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments. Did you find engaging in family therapy helpful?

Did you get to reap the benefits described here? If you have practiced family therapy, what are some of the most valuable things you have learned from your practice?

Thank you for reading!

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Relationships Exercises for free.

If you want more, our Positive Psychology Toolkit© contains over 370 science-based positive psychology exercises, interventions, questionnaires, and assessments for practitioners to use in their therapy, coaching, or workplace.

  • 10 Acre Ranch. (2017, January 23). 10 Acre Ranch. Retrieved from https://www.10acreranch.org/blog/2017/01/23/5-benefits-family-therapy/
  • American Addiction Centers. (2017). The benefits of family therapy. Forterus. Retrieved from http://forterustreatment.com/therapy/family-therapy/
  • http://www.drpatrick.com/
  • Eder, A. What is the difference between counseling & psychotherapy? Ashley EderCounseling & Psychotherapy. Retrieved from http://www.ashleyeder.com/counseling-psychotherapy/
  • “Family Therapy”. (2014, January 14). Good Therapy. Retrieved from http://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/modes/family-therapy
  • Family therapy. (2017A). In Encyclopedia of Children’s Health. Retrieved from http://libguides.dixie.edu/c.php?g=57887&p=371718
  • Family therapy. (2017B). In Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. Retrieved from http://www.minddisorders.com/Del-Fi/Family-therapy.html
  • GenoPro. (2017). Introduction to the genogram. GenoPro. Retrieved from https://www.genopro.com/genogram/
  • Herkov, M. (2016). About family therapy. Psych Central. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/about-family-therapy/
  • Howes, R. (2010, January 17). The ten coolest therapy interventions: Introduction. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-therapy/201001/the-ten-coolest-therapy-interventions-introduction
  • Schwartz, A. (2009, March 31). Family therapy: A different approach to psychotherapy. Mental Help. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhelp.net/blogs/family-therapy-a-different-approach-to-psychotherapy/
  • Teen Treatment Center. (2014, March 20). The benefits of family therapy. Teen Treatment Center. Retrieved from https://www.teentreatmentcenter.com/blog/the-benefits-of-family-therapy/

About the Author

Courtney Ackerman, MA, is a graduate of the positive organizational psychology and evaluation program at Claremont Graduate University. She is currently working as a researcher for the State of California and her professional interests include survey research, wellbeing in the workplace, and compassion.


  1. Michael Eerbeek

    This is an excellent, and in-depth article that explains the multiple uses and strategies that a family therapist near you uses to help your family overcome obstacles and become closer to one another. With family therapy in Calgary, you and your loved ones will be feeling more in tune with each other than ever before, and you will likely learn something about yourself as well.

  2. Roseann Iuvone

    Ms. Ackerman,
    We are concerned for an adult 37 year old daughter and the therapy she is receiving from a particular Psychologist. We are located in NJ. Since she has been seeing this Psychologist for nearly 2 years, our daughter’s relationships with our family – parents and siblings have been going from bad to worse and now almost non existent. She has been angry about the past family issues and cannot seem to shed the past. She is a schoolteacher, a parent to a 9 and 12 year old daughters, and remarried last October. We are not a perfect family, however we are good people. Everyone has had their issues at one time or another but our daughter’s siblings have moved past the issues from when they were younger. Any advice you could give us would be a good start to improve our family.
    Thank you,

    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi Roseann,
      I’m sorry to hear that you are feeling disconnected from your daughter. What’s important (and constructive) is that she is working through her experiences of her childhood with a psychologist. When undergoing long-term therapy, people may find that they need space or emotional distance, at least temporarily, from those they feel are associated with their negative feelings so they can process them and decide how to move forward with those relationships.
      Here are some important questions to ask: Does your daughter have social support/people she can lean on elsewhere in her life (e.g., friends, her partner)? Does she have stability in her work and personal life? Does she seem healthy and happy? I cannot know your personal situation, but my suggestion would be to gently reach out, let her know that you’re there for her if/when she wants to reconnect, or chat about anything from the past, and then allow some space.
      We all process our past experiences differently, and for some, this may take a little more time than for others.
      I hope this helps, and best of luck.
      – Nicole | Community Manager

  3. Boaventura

    I am just starting my online classes on Marriage and Family therapy. It is an opportunity to go through technical words and to be familiar with the content.
    Thank for your insight knowledge and reflection on this matter.
    Well done for the values that you gave and the input.

  4. Gerard D. Hoefling, Ph.D.

    Dear Ms. Ackerman,
    Thanks you for this concise and succinct work! The coronavirus is forcing me to deliver material to my students electronically and your work made my life considerably easier by providing me with a terrific source to share with students studying Family Counseling. I owe you a beer!


      Dr.P.Amuthalakshmi , on 23rd may 2020.
      Dear Ms. Ackerman,
      Thanks you for this wonderful work! The coronavirus is giving me the opportunity to go through your article to deliver the material to my students electronically and your excellent work made my life considerably easier to share with students studying in post graduate social work. My love to you. Take care. intiate many more articles like this.

  5. Tracy

    Thank you so much for this article. It is very informative. I’m looking for a family therapist to help our relationship with our teens. This gives me some insight and a positive outlook when I go to consult a therapist.

  6. Felecia Beall

    This is the absolute first time I’ve ever posted a response on a public forum. I have never seen anyone explain a concept more clearly than you have presented family therapy. Thank you for your thorough, detailed description of this process. I was moved and inspired by the clarity!!!


    Awesome job. keep it up.

  8. Erica

    Thank you for sharing your expertise and for the resource materials. Very helpful for counselors 🙂

  9. Dee

    I am trying to locate the reference for King, 2017. It is not listed on your reference page.

  10. Zarina

    Thank you for the site! It has refreshed my undergrad. studies in Family T. in a blink.
    I have been perusing hoping to develop possible methodology to research my Masters in Psychology.
    All i know at this stage is that i am interested in Couples therapy, Play therapy techniques and now i see that i have to factor in family T.
    I will get there….
    Many thanks!

  11. Dean Phillips

    I really like how you said that you should find a licensed professional to provide you with family therapy. My brother and his wife have been having issues with their marriage for the last few weeks. It might be beneficial for them to look into family therapy.

  12. Peter Ataw

    Hi Courtney Ackerman
    I’m undergraduate BA holder who is seeking to precede my education in master of counseling in Arts. And have a desire to focus on marriage and family counseling. So I’m here to sake your advice. After seeing your article, I’m in love with your family therapy methodology.
    Thanks for your helped.

  13. Rose N Stephen

    Thanks a lot i found this very helpful

  14. Karen Simpson

    Your information is insightful thank you

  15. mimi

    Could you make a recommendation for a book that has experiential activities for helping families work together and improve communication.

  16. eLuma Online Therapy

    First of all, it is very interesting article because your choose very nice topic. Everyone want to read this article.Keep it up!

  17. Family Counseling Ocala, FL

    What a great article!. I am bookmarking it to read it over again after work. It seems like a very interesting topic to write about.

  18. Amy Winters

    I like your suggestion to use family therapy to become a more cohesive family unit in times of stress. My family has been dealing with unexpected difficulties, and I think it’s been a struggle for everyone involved. I’ll talk to my husband and suggest we try family counseling to grow closer together in these hard times.

  19. Ralph Koplowitz

    Hello there Ms Ackerman!
    Loved your article; very informative. I am a retired mental health counsellor (individual, adult, children and family).
    I have long had a ‘pet idea’ (so to speak) on if conceivably some principles of family therapy might be broadened and successfully applied in chronic, longstanding, dysfunctional relationships between different cultures and countries. I particularly had the Israel-Palestinian festering relationship in mind – although perhaps it could be applied elsewhere, as well.
    Not sure under whose auspices (the U.N., other agency?) and who the neutral facilitator (experienced therapist) might be, but I have wondered if it might work, as some of the issues, emotions, pain, anger, resentment are not unlike in an actual family.
    Was wondering what your thoughts are and if you think, as difficult as this might be if it might have some merits? I know there have been some experiments along these lines with arbiters in international disputes. Not sure how much of that involved group psychological factors?
    Any thoughts, positive or negative?

  20. Millie Hue

    It’s great to know that there is an option where you can have some exercises to see if you would want the therapy to be long-term. I will share this with my family to fix our relationship. The issue just started when two of my siblings had an argument where they blamed each other and also included mom and dad. This might fix this issue.

  21. apprehensive

    I really enjoyed your article. It was very informative. I have a question that may sound stupid but it is a real concern. What if family therapy opens up a can of worms ? I know that sounds like one is trying to hide and not deal with issues, but once the genie is out it cant be put back in the box. Things said, cannot be unsaid especially coming from family members. I love my family to bits and we all love each other a lot. But we are an extremely sensitive and overly analytical family. For some time now, I have been thinking maybe we should all go to a family therapist but also shy away thinking of how personally we may all take it or how it make shake the foundations that currently bind us. Can counselling and being really honest with each other cause further issues ? And secondly, how does one choose a therapist. It is a huge responsibility to put that kind of trust in someone and to open up and expect them to guide you and your loved ones in the right direction. A simple google search does not suffice. Any tips and guidance ? Thanks in advance and sorry for such a long question.

  22. Elijah

    Hello, great thorough article. I was wondering if you could provide any information or articles describing the practice of therapy at the home rather than in an office or clinical setting as a best practice. Do you know of any literature supporting this?

  23. Rosie Beckett

    My brother and his family have been experiencing a lot of family tension and fighting, so they are thinking of going to family counseling. You make a great point that it can help to develop a supportive family environment and reduce the sources of tension and stress in your family. Also, the fact that it will teach conflict resolution skills would be a great benefit for my brother so that he knows how to help his family work through their problems.

    • Courtney E Ackerman

      That’s great to hear that your brother and his family are considering family counseling! If he comes to you for advice or suggestions, encourage him to give it a try–after all, what has he got to lose? At most, a couple of hours that the family didn’t find helpful. It seems like a gamble that’s worth making to me!
      Thanks for your comment!

  24. Carmon Friedrich

    Hi, Courtney…thank you for the article and resources. I wondered if you could suggest any books that could be used with children to educate them (and their parents!) about roles people take on in families. Thank you!

    • Courtney E Ackerman

      Hey Carmon, I’m happy to hear you enjoyed this piece! I’m not aware of any books on that exact topic, but I’m sure there are some out there. An Amazon search for “family roles” in the books category would probably get you some good suggestions. Best of luck!

  25. Rob Hardy

    Great read.
    What if you can’t convince all of the family members to come to family therapy?
    Also if you think you have things that maybe should stay between the parents, I assume that at least the first therapy session should just be with the parents?

    • Courtney E Ackerman

      Good question–it’s probably a rare scenario that all family members are totally on board with therapy. If you can’t convince a family member to come, I’d suggest going with the family members that are willing and gently encouraging the hesitant one, hopefully with some evidence of the positive outcomes the other family members are experiencing!
      And yes, I would think that some situations call for an initial session with only the adults, or even an adult-only session each week to complement the family therapy.

  26. Lori Barnett

    Please recommendations in the Portland Oregon area ? Thank you

  27. Viola bailey

    I would love to know , where I can take my granddaughter for consoling. Also, I am sure ,her mom & dad need it to. She is 13 years old. Tucson, Az. Please let me know where I can take her.

  28. Oscar O'Malley

    I like that you mentioned that a family going through the loss of a loved one can benefit from family therapy. A friend of mine lost his father last month, and the dynamic of his home has shifted dramatically. I think family therapy would be great for him and his family members.

    • Courtney Ackerman

      I’m so sorry to hear that, Oscar. It sounds like family therapy could be a great comfort to his family.

  29. Deb Pearl

    That is really nice that family therapy is a form of treatment to take care of the health and functioning of a family. I know my family has been having a hard time seeing eye-to-eye lately, and that sounds like it could be very beneficial to us. I’m glad that they can help with behavioral and emotional problems with techniques and exercises. We will have to give it a shot.

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Hey Deb, it’s great to hear that you’re considering family therapy. I think just about every family, no matter how healthy and functional, could benefit from therapy! Good luck, and thanks for your comment!

  30. Kyle Wayne

    I really think it’s great that you brought up how finding a professional family therapy workshop can improve your empathy for one another. My aunt’s family is really struggling with their teenage kids right now and honestly, the empathy is making it all worse. My aunt is looking for any solutions and I think I will encourage them to see out a professional counselor that can help them over these addictions/problems.

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Thanks for the comment, Kyle. I agree – I think in cases of addictions and more serious family issues, seeing a professional is your best bet!

  31. Kourtney Jensen

    I really like how you said that a therapist wants to help families be better at communicating, solving problems, and creating a better home environment. My sister had bad anxiety growing up and saw a therapist for it. Because she was able to communicate her emotions, it cause the home life to be a lot better and we were all able to get a long.

    • Courtney Ackerman

      It’s amazing how much one change in one family member can affect the whole family! I’m so glad a therapist was able to help your family communicate better. Thanks for reading 🙂

  32. Rachel Lannister

    I’d heard in the past that family therapy could really help families strengthen relationships and I wanted to learn more about that. You wrote that family therapy is a great thing because it helps address problems in the family that might be causing unhealthy behaviors in individuals. Being able to identify the source of the problem could definitely help you to resolve the problem quicker.

    • Courtney Ackerman

      That was my line of thinking as well, Rachel. Sometimes we know that there is a problem, but it’s hard to dig down into the core of the problem on our own. Going to family therapy can be a great way to identify the source!


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