Family Therapy is a strength-based, outcome-oriented treatment that focuses on the interaction between family members.
According to Family Therapy, our behaviors are a function of our relations with others, and Family Therapy examines the interplay among family members, rather than focusing solely on individuals. The role of the family therapist is to discover each member’s underutilized strengths and to help him or her move past negative patterns of communication that interfere with the family’s health and functioning.
After observing how your family interacts, the therapist will draw a chart, or map, of your family’s structure. Since there is an overall organization or structure that maintains a family's dysfunctional interactions, this chart helps identify the hierarchy, family subsystems, and boundaries (both rigid and flexible) within the family unit, such as the relationship between parents or between one parent and one particular child. Using this plan, the therapist can also see where changes are needed and what type of interventions will help restructure the family.
Family members may be asked to role-play a problematic situation, and, at times, the therapist may appear to be “taking sides” to help disrupt a negative pattern within a family subsystem and change the dynamic of the relationship. Therapists work collaboratively with families, not as experts who can solve problems, but as consultants and coaches who work to bring the family's dormant capacities to the surface. Therapists respect the family's unique culture.
Therapists work from the premise that all individuals and families have the resources to resolve their own issues. It is the therapist’s role to help the family discover its own talents and capacities to effect change so that the family themselves can continue on a healthy and productive path towards recovery (Nichols & Davis, 2017).
Dr. Michael P. Nichols Interview
Dr. Michael Nichols currently serves as a Professor of Psychology at William & Mary and has been a leading teacher and practitioner of Family Therapy for over 40 years. He is the author of many revolutionary books, including Stop Arguing with Your Kids, The Lost Art of Listening, The Essentials of Family Therapy, which is currently in its sixth edition, and Family Therapy: Concepts and Methods, which is currently in its 11th edition.
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