By Marie Miguel
In his famous novel Anna Karenina, Tolstoy wrote this famous quote in 1878: “All happy families are alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
That quote might sound pessimistic, but it holds an inner truth: each family has its own struggles and battles it has to face every day. The dynamics one is subjected to when living in a family can have a big impact on their future life. Children often follow their parents’ steps, while parents typically raise their children based on how they were raised, and their worldview and conceptions.
The family has a great influence on how one behaves and acts. It could be the source of happiness or not. Sometimes it is about supporting, while others are about raising problems. Whatever the case you identify with regarding your own family, there is a good chance you could benefit from family therapy.
You don’t need to face your struggles alone, falling into the same old patterns. In the time of COVID-19 and potentially post-pandemic, you don’t even need to physically go to a therapist or counselor’s practice, as online therapies might be the easiest path for you. BetterHelp is an online platform where you can find psychological support that connects you with therapists capable of helping your family.
What is Family Therapy?
Family therapy is designed to help address issues and problems that are affecting your family dynamics. It could be necessary due to a specific circumstance you are living in, such as the death or illness of someone from the family or close to you.
In other circumstances, maybe it is just a good option to help your family have a better, healthier relationship among yourselves.
What is useful about family therapy is that it helps the family as a group, but treats each individual problem in relation to the larger context of the group. The premise is that no problem or issue can be solved without first understanding the dynamics within the family that contribute to other interactions.
Another important consideration for family therapy is that the family here is not necessarily your blood relatives. In fact, your family could be anyone who has an influence and long-term support role in a person’s life.
The bonding and relationships between family members are the most relevant elements when considering family therapy.
Family Therapy Techniques
There are different types of family therapy techniques. What will matter to the therapist and the family when choosing which technique is better is the situation. The more specifically a therapist understands the issues within a family, the better they will be able to choose a technique.
One technique might be more appropriate to a family’s struggle than another, and everything possible or relevant can be taken into account.
Here are the main types of family therapy to expect from a therapist specializing in family therapy:
Created by Murray Bowen, this technique is also called intergenerational family therapy. In this one, therapy should aim for separating feelings from thoughts, which can decrease anxiety within the family.
As this could be a very personal process, it is a good technique for those who don’t want to (or cannot) bring all family members to the practice. The therapist might work with one family member only instead of all of them at the same time.
Also called the Milan Model, this technique is all about unconscious communication and the why behind every family members’ behavior.
Here, the therapist is neutral and distant and gives space for the family members to deeply understand their problems as a group. The therapist will help the family to change their behavior based on questioning their dynamics.
It puts everyone face to face with the other’s reality and view of the family, which guarantees different perspectives are in discussion.
If you are looking for results in a short amount of time, the strategic approach might be the best choice. This one is based on a set of activities and homework that the therapist sets for each family member, based on their interactions with one another.
It was created by Milton Erickson and Jay Haley, who believed that the therapist should push for change behavior by showing the family the problems they have when interacting with each other.
The fourth technique was created by Salvador Minuchin, who believed that what increased problems within a family is its structure.
In this conception, a healthy family relationship is one that sets boundaries and hierarchy between its members. It has been known to be good for those families whose children face behavioral and emotional problems. It is about strengthening the relationships between them and showing who sets the rules and who follows them.
Adapting These to Online
Just because it’s online, it doesn’t mean a therapy would be less effective. In fact, many therapists have adapted their methods to address these necessary issues remotely, especially when concerning family therapy.
For example, the therapist could bring activities to improve the bonding between the members that could be done online, such as games. The most important aspect could be the amount of time family members spend with each other; regardless of if it’s online, it is important to build this supportive environment.
One way to build trust through online therapies could also be with fun activities, like scavenger hunts, in which the therapist asks to find an item “that resembles one from the family,” for example. It is a good option to keep things dynamic, while also nurturing bonds and promoting interaction.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.