Family therapy is generally conducted by a psychologist or other highly trained professional experienced in family and group therapy techniques. Family therapy involves multiple therapy sessions, usually lasting 1 ½ to 2 hours each, conducted at regular intervals (for example, once weekly) for several months.
Typically, family therapy is initiated to address a specific problem, such as an adolescent with a psychological disorder, coping with separation of divorce, or adjustment to a death in the family. Therapy sessions may also reveal additional problems in the family unit, such as communication issues, behavioral difficulties or challenges with trust. In a family therapy session, therapists seek to analyze the process of family interaction and communication as a whole, and make every effort not to side with one member of the family over another.
A trained family systems therapist seeks to point out patterns in the family, and to help mediate the discussion among family members to come up with collective solutions to family issues. Psychologists can model new behaviors for the family through their interactions in therapy. They can also introduce relevant empirical research to the family members on topics that relate to them (i.e., co-parenting, fair fighting, etc.).
Family therapy is based on family systems theory, in which the family is viewed as an entity or organism itself, rather than just the sum of its individual members. Family therapy uses systems theory to evaluate family members in terms of their position or role within the family unit. Problems are treated by changing the way the entire system works, rather than trying to fix a specific member or “identified patient”. All of the individual member of the family who attend therapy will be best served by the process if they challenge themselves for growth and positive change.