The Importance of Family Therapy
Written By: Nick Bloodworth, MFTA
It’s not unheard of for guardians to bring their children to therapy and say “fix them.” When I hear this, I imagine taking my car to a mechanic and saying “fix this.” At these moments I look for the reaction on the children. Unfortunately, I rarely see any reactions at all. This is because they are used to hearing statements like these on a regular basis. I could “fix” the children, but then they will return home to the same family system they came from. The family system is what needed “fixing” in the first place. I could meet with the guardians and do my best to convince them that the problems exist within the rest of the family system, most commonly the marital and parental subsystem. However, that wouldn’t go over well and I probably wouldn’t see the children or the guardians again.
So what am I to do as a therapist? This is a question most ask as they seek to understand what needs to be done. Family therapy! With the concept of family therapy, we seek to understand the environment that produces the child’s problematic behaviors. Does the child misbehave because they are disobedient or a lost cause? Or could there be something bigger that triggers these misbehavior’s? Family therapy will attempt to understand the context of the behaviors to work towards figuring out how to change the whole system. If guardians bring their children or grandchildren in for therapy to be “fixed”, it might be unthinkable to them that their child’s misbehavior is directly linked to things like adults arguing, a change in living situations or financial difficulties. Other problems linked to misbehavior could be the death of a loved one, a child feeling disengaged from their guardians and even divorce.
I utilize family therapy because it aims to help families to recognize that the “enemy” is not each member of the family. What family therapy aims to change are the damaged patterns of communication, fear, feelings of abandonment, and many other challenges that families face on a regular basis. I am aware that this therapy is not always fun. But research shows that family therapy produces lasting improvements for all involved.