Counseling For Families: Types, Techniques, Interventions

Counseling For Families: Types, Techniques, And InterventionsFamily counseling, or family therapy, is a form of talk therapy (psychotherapy) focused on improving and understanding relationships within the family. It’s specifically designed to address any conflict between couples and family members.

Family counseling involves multiple combinations of family members, including parents, children, uncles, aunts, grandparents, friends, siblings, etc. The therapy can help address situations related to the following:

  • Grieving for the death of a loved one
  • Adjusting to new lifestyle changes (e.g., living with a chronic medical condition or moving to a new house)
  • Coping with all the challenges related to aging
  • Dealing with relationship conflicts (e.g., parent-child or sibling conflicts)

According to a professional counseling in Portland Oregon, family counseling can also treat an individual suffering from a particular mental health condition affecting the entire household. For example, the therapy may require other family members to help one of them recover from substance use disorder.

If you’re suffering from a mental health condition, you may seek immediate professional counseling. Mental health experts can educate and guide your loved ones to overcome the issues causing disturbances within your family.

I’m writing this article because I am a bestselling wellness author with about 2 million books sold globally.

Plus I founded the therapist recommended video course called The Anxiety Cure.

So I decided to put together this article to help anybody who is exploring family counseling. In this article, you’ll learn the different types of family counseling as well as some techniques and interventions professionals use to improve the therapy’s effectiveness.

 What Are The Types Of Family Counseling?

Mental health experts use several types of family counseling to address different circumstances. They can also combine practices from different approaches depending on your needs.

  • Structural Family Therapy

This focuses on improving communication between family members. It was developed by Salvador Minuchin and his colleagues in the 1960s, believing that dysfunctional interfamilial relationships can cause mental health problems within the family.

Structural family therapy is commonly used to address cases such as:

  • Mood disorders (e.g., bipolar or major depressive disorders) among adolescents
  • Substance abuse (e.g., drugs and alcohol)
  • Eating disorders (e.g., anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or bulimia nervosa)
  • Divorce
  • Grieving the death or illness of a loved one

The primary objective of SFT is to help families reorganize how they communicate with each other to become cohesive and functional units of society. This also allows families to adapt to stressors they might encounter throughout their lives.

  • Strategic Family Therapy

This focuses on helping families with children exhibiting behavioral issues. These include bullying, cruelty to animals, breaking the rules, engaging in physical combat, stealing, lying, etc.

During the session, the therapist will create interventions that reflect how families communicate and interact with each other. This will help resolve structural problems and develop behavioral changes.

Strategic family therapy is an active form of talk therapy. It’s developed to be task-oriented, concise, and instructive.

  • Systemic Family Therapy

This focuses on understanding how socio-cultural beliefs affect the interaction and relationship between family members. Each session can be divided into five parts:

  • Understanding the problem
  • Identifying behavioral patterns
  • Understanding beliefs 
  • Identifying emotional attachments
  • Applying contextual factors

Systemic family therapy believes that considering the characteristics of every family member can help understand the behavior of the entire family. Problems aren’t viewed as specific to an individual but as an element of a larger group involving other people, their beliefs, and behaviors.

  • Narrative Family Therapy

Narrative family therapy believes that people are natural storytellers. Your personal experiences in life become your own personal stories. Every story you create has a significant meaning based on your thoughts about it—this shapes your own identity.

Narrative family therapy can help treat mental conditions that affect the family such as:

  • Eating disorders
  • Major depressive disorders
  • Grief
  • Attachment issues
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

Narrative family therapy is also beneficial in helping individuals overcome their negative emotions, thoughts, and experiences. This allows them to find and use their voice in a good way. This helps them become the master of their lives and live according to their principles and values.

  • Transgenerational Family Therapy

Understanding the root cause of family problems can be difficult, especially if not even a single member recognizes their mistake. This is where transgenerational family therapy comes in.

Transgenerational family therapy examines your family’s history from one generation to another. The mental health professional will analyze your family’s past to predict future outcomes and understand your current situation.

  • Functional Family Therapy

Functional family therapy (FFT) focuses on helping youth linked to delinquency, substance abuse, and violence and improving their relationships with their families.

The therapist will analyze factors that may affect their clients and their relationship with their families. These include strengths, weaknesses, potential challenges, and protective factors.

FFT is a psychotherapy program with an average of 12 sessions. The role of the therapist is to foster a relationship with the family, motivate them, examine their dynamics, and improve their behavioral patterns.

  • Couples Therapy

Couples therapy focuses on improving the relationship and resolving conflicts between you and your partner. If you and your partner are having difficulties, seeking couples therapy may help rebuild and heal your wounded relationship.

Couples therapy can help address the following issues such as:

  • Recurring conflicts (e.g., everyday arguments)
  • Feelings of disconnection
  • A third-party affair
  • Difficulties related to sex
  • External stressors (e.g., work problems)

Other forms of couples therapy include premarital counseling and marriage counseling.

What Are The Techniques Used In Family Therapy?

Mental health professionals can use several techniques depending on their client’s needs (family). Some may include:

  • Behavioral Techniques

Behavioral techniques focus on psychoeducation and skills training to help families resolve behavioral issues and conflicts. These include:

  • Cognitive restructuring
  • Guided discovery
  • Thought records
  • Activity scheduling
  • Modeling
  • Role-playing

For example, role-playing techniques may help families improve how they communicate and interact with each other.

  • Psychodynamic Techniques

Psychodynamic techniques evaluate how each family member responds to a specific problem. These include:

  • Building emotional resilience
  • Discussing relationships
  • Modeling healthy relationships
  • Processing emotions through talk therapy
  • Releasing emotions from the past

The mental health professional will evaluate their responses and create a solution based on their answers. They might suggest or explore new ways to help family members respond more effectively.

  • Structural Techniques

Structural techniques help family members develop new boundaries and routines to improve family functions. These include:

  • Developing a shared relationship with the family
  • Exploring and creating boundaries and hierarchies
  • Acting out possible scenarios to identify changes in behavioral patterns
  • Seeing situations and circumstances from a different perspective

The main goal of structural techniques is to reorganize and clarify hierarchies within the family to improve how families interact and communicate with each other.

What Are The Different Interventions In Family Therapy?

Mental health professionals may use several interventions during a family therapy session. Depending on your family’s needs, they might use multiple exercises to better understand your family’s circumstances.

  • The Miracle Question

The miracle question helps individuals, couples, and families determine the type of future they want to build. When it comes to family therapy, the miracle question may help clients understand what their family needs to be happy and contented with the relationship.

Here’s the miracle question:

‘Suppose a miracle occurred while you were asleep. When you wake up the next morning, what are the possible things that’d indicate that your life has gotten better?’

Although the answer may be impossible, therapists can still use it to assess their client’s needs and preferences. The miracle question helps the client to visualize a future where their current conflicts are addressed.

  • Candy Go Around

This is a great and fun way to introduce family therapy. The therapist will start the activity with a pack of colored candies (e.g., Jelly Beans, M&Ms, or Skittles).

Each family member will be given seven candies—every color represents a different meaning. For example, green candies pertain to words to describe your family. If a family member has three green candies, they need to give three words that describe their family.

Once everyone has given their responses, it’s time to eat the candies and answer the questions from the therapist. What did you learn? What surprised you the most during the game? How will you be able to apply everything you’ve learned from the activity?

  • Emotional Ball

The emotional ball is a simple exercise often played with children and adolescents. All you need is a ball and a marker. A beach ball would be perfect for this game—it’s larger enough to include a lot of emotions.

The therapist will ask you to write several emotions in different sections of the ball (e.g., joyful, excited, surprised, or lonely. Then, the ball will be tossed between family members. 

When a family member receives the ball, they should describe the emotion in front of them using past experiences. Alternatively, the one who catches the ball may re-enact the emotion facing them. This activity is excellent for children.

The primary purpose of this game is to discuss the emotions you can’t speak with your family. It also teaches you how to listen and express your feelings.

  • Mirroring Activity

This activity encourages family members to relate and work with each other. First, the therapist will ask you to get a partner. Second, you’ll stand together with your partner face to face. Your partner will act as your mirror, and you to your partner.

Every movement must be done exactly at the same time because it’s a mirroring activity. Keep in mind that you can’t touch each other during the game. Therefore, you and your partner must think carefully about what actions you should perform next.

Final Words

Family counseling is a form of talk therapy that focuses on addressing conflicts between family members and improving their relationship with each other. It comes in several types: structural, strategic, systemic, narrative, transgenerational, functional, and couple.

Family counseling uses several techniques: behavioral, psychodynamic, and structural. Mental health professionals may also use some interventions to further understand the emotions and behavior of different family members.

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