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7 Approaches Used In Family Therapy

7 Approaches Used In Family Therapy

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Disclaimer: Presented by BetterHelp

While everyone faces individual challenges in life, being part of a family unit often means going through problems that concern the entire group.

While issues in families are common, it can be difficult to heal and move forward if no one wants to talk and work through the concerns.

In these instances, family therapy may be a powerful tool for overcoming obstacles and growing together. 

In this article, we’ll be discussing seven of the most common approaches utilized by therapists offering family therapy.

With this knowledge, you and the members of your family may be more equipped to choose a therapist that’s right for you. 

Reasons For Family Therapy

Families may choose to attend family therapy for numerous reasons, including:

  • Establishing healthy boundaries
  • Resolving sibling rivalries
  • Receiving parenting guidance and direction
  • Fixing behavioral problems
  • Keeping members safe from domestic violence
  • Finding ways to cope with mental disorders
  • Working through trauma
  • Sorting through conflict
  • Dealing with changes in the family unit
  • Coping with chronic illness
  • Building stronger bonds among members
  • Fostering open communication

While family therapy can be highly effective, it may not always be convenient for families due to everyone’s conflicting schedules.

Platforms like BetterHelp offer virtual therapy to individuals and families facing a range of issues, which could be useful for those seeking therapy outside of conventional hours. 

7 Family Therapy Approaches

Family therapists may use a variety of approaches when treating the families that they see, including the following:  

  • Structural family therapy: Structural family therapy focuses on the specific interactions between family members by mapping out their behaviors. By understanding how the family normally functions, therapists can uncover unhealthy or negative patterns and take steps to address them. As members learn how to relate to one another and improve their communication skills, the family dynamics can become healthier, allowing each person as well as the entire unit to thrive. 

  • Functional family therapy: Functional family therapy is a thorough, short-term approach that seeks to help at-risk youth and their families. Some of the concerns addressed by FFT include substance use, crime, delinquency, violence, and other behavioral problems. The functional family therapy model helps foster a safe, supportive home environment for the child, improves the family’s communication, teaches parenting more effective parenting skills, and focuses on positive reinforcement to help children make healthier, more constructive choices. 

  • Systemic family therapy: Systemic family therapy, also known as systemic therapy or family systems therapy, is an approach that focuses on the dynamics of the entire family unit rather than looking at the tendencies and traits of individual members. This therapeutic model rests on the idea that every member of the family is constantly influencing the beliefs, choices, and behaviors of the other members. By understanding the patterns, communication styles, and problems within the family, therapists can work with the whole unit to create positive change. 

  • Emotionally focused therapy: Emotionally focused therapy is one of the most common approaches in marital and family counseling. With EFT, each family member’s emotions take a front seat in discussions. Therapists help each member develop self-awareness and work through their emotions to understand their unique individual needs. By teaching family members how to relate to and understand one another, therapists can guide conversations and relationships to be healthier and more constructive. 

  • Brief strategic family therapy: Brief strategic family therapy is a short-term intervention concerned with addressing behavioral issues in youth, such as drug and alcohol use, unsafe sex, and delinquency. This approach seeks to understand how the family may have contributed to the child’s behavioral problems and then works to create healthier dynamics between its members. When family members change how they interact with and relate to one another, it can help the unit grow and evolve while disrupting the child’s poor behavioral choices. 

  • Narrative family therapy: Narrative family therapy focuses on the stories each member of the family tells themselves about their lives and struggles. It involves separating the individual from their problems, allowing them to re-construct a story that gives them more influence over their lives. Therapists teach members of the family how to change their lives by empowering them to externalize their issues and grow through them, helping them to see that they have all the tools and power they need to create positive change for themselves.

  • Intergenerational family therapy: Intergenerational family therapy focuses on understanding and addressing different dysfunctional patterns and conflicts that have been passed down through generations within a family. When these issues are left unresolved, they can create present-day problems for a family, putting them at risk of passing them on to the next generation. Thus, therapists using this approach often explore the family’s history to understand how the past is influencing current relationships, problems, and behaviors. This approach seeks to establish healthier family dynamics and patterns by encouraging empathy and fostering forgiveness.


Different types of therapy work effectively for different families. It’s important to discuss which approach a practitioner uses before beginning regular sessions, as some family units may have unique needs and circumstances that must be considered and appropriately addressed.

By doing research and asking questions, families can find the right fit for them. 


Taking Healing Into Your Own Hands

Family issues often go unaddressed, as they take more than one person to resolve.

Getting everyone on board to address a problem can be challenging, especially when there’s no desire to mend the situation.

Although family problems can be complex, both individual and family therapy can be beneficial.  


While working through obstacles as a unit may be ideal, sometimes people have to find healing on their own, which can be helpful to be prepared for.

It’s never too late to seek support and guidance, even if you are forced to go at it alone.

By learning how to protect yourself through healthy boundaries and coping skills, you can set a positive example for the rest of your family and motivate them to do the same. 

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