- Illness in one family member may be a symptom of a larger family problem. To treat only the member who is identified as ill is like treating the symptom of a disease but not the disease itself. It is possible that if the person with the illness is treated but the family is not, another member of the family will become ill. This cycle will continue until the problems are examined and treated.
A family therapist:
- Teaches family members about how families function in general and, in particular, how their own functions.
- Helps the family focus less on the member who has been identified as ill and focus more on the family as a whole.
- Assists in identifying conflicts and anxieties and helps the family develop strategies to resolve them.
- Strengthens all family members so they can work on their problems together.
- Teaches ways to handle conflicts and changes within the family differently. Sometimes the way family members handle problems makes them more likely to develop symptoms.
During therapy sessions, the family’s strengths are used to help them handle their problems. All members take responsibility for problems. Some family members may need to change their behavior more than others. Family therapy is a very active type of therapy, and family members are often given assignments. For example, parents may be asked to delegate more responsibilities to their children. The number of sessions required varies, depending on the severity of the problems and the willingness of the members to participate in therapy. The family and the therapist set mutual goals and discuss the length of time expected to achieve the goals. Not all members of the family attend each session. However, if one member refuses to attend sessions, other family members can still benefit by attending.