Types of Family Counseling

Family therapy is unique because it doesn’t necessarily follow the assumed one-on-one model that other counseling sessions follow. Family therapy is rooted in the idea that one’s behavior is inseparable and originates from the family unit, and that understanding that complex relationship is necessary for resolving conflict in the family life. But while it does form its own unique aspect of therapy, one aspect it has in common with other areas of therapy is that there are many different techniques used to achieve similar goals. This post will break down several of the techniques highlighted over at Goodtherapy.org. Keep in mind that this is just an overview, but there are many resources available should you wish to learn more!

Family Looking up

Structural Family Therapy

If you’ve ever seen any pop culture representations of family systems therapy, chances are this was it. Structural family therapy, pioneered by Argentinian family therapist Salvador Minuchin, examines and evaluate the family’s behaviors within the therapy setting. Minuchin believed the first steps to repairing the family came from slight changes to each individual’s behavior (first order changes), and then a reevaluation of family rules (second order changes). He also encouraged role-playing activities to get a better sense of the familial dynamic.

Strategic Family Therapy

The functional inverse of structural family therapy. While structural therapy evaluates the family unit within the therapy session, strategic therapy does the bulk of its evaluations outside of the sessions. It also places emphasis on reframing problems and situations, and can make use of something called a “paradoxical intervention”,  which is essentially taking an action that runs counter to what a family would normally do in a given situation. Clinical psychiatrists such as Jay Haley made great contributions to this field of study. Haley’s approach suggested that common patient issues stemmed from families attempting to correct what they saw as problematic behavior. To fix this, he focused on rapid, short-term changes.

Intergenerational Family Therapy

This branch is particularly fascinating, because it examines how different generations of family traditions can have an impact on one member. It can also be used to see how the problems experienced today could have roots in the behavior of the previous generations, Murray Bowen was one of the biggest names in this area of family therapy. To help his patients, he would often discuss how other families may experience the same problems.