family therapy

Family Therapy

Family therapy is a form of psychotherapy that involves all the members of a nuclear or extended family. It may be conducted by a pair of therapists—often a man and a woman—to treat gender-related issues or serve as role models for family members. Although some types of family therapy are based on behavioural or psychodynamic principles, the most widespread form is based on family systems theory, an approach that regards the entire family as the unit of treatment, and emphasizes such factors as relationships and communication patterns rather than traits or symptoms in individual members.


The purpose of family therapy is to identify and treat family problems that cause dysfunction. Therapy focuses on improvement in specific areas of functioning for each member, including communication and problem-solving skills.

Family therapy is often recommended when:

  • A family member has schizophrenia or suffers from another severe psychosis ; the goal in these cases is to help other family members understand the disorder and adjust to the psychological changes that may be occurring in the patient.
  • Problems cross generational boundaries, such as when parents share a home with grandparents, or children are being raised by grandparents.
  • Families deviate from social norms (unmarried parents, gay couples rearing children, etc.). These families may or may not have internal problems, but could be troubled by societal attitudes.
  • Members come from mixed racial, cultural, or religious backgrounds.
  • One member is being scapegoated, or their treatment in individual therapy is being undermined.
  • The identified patient's problems seem inextricably tied to problems with other family members.
  • A blended (i.e. step-) family is having adjustment difficulties.