What is family therapy or family counselling?

One of the many services we offer at TalkItOver is family therapy by trained counsellors who have specialized in marriage and family counselling. Here are a few commonly asked questions about family therapy and their responses.

1. What does family therapy mean? Is it the same as individual counselling but done together for a family?

No. Family therapy or family counselling is not the same as individual counselling because of the difference in the approach that the counsellor uses. A family therapist/counsellor looks at the entire family as a system and feels that an individual is best understood in his/her context. A system is one in which the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Family therapy says that a family is a living system and change in one member causes changes in all the other parts of the family system.

Family Therapy/Family Counselling Individual Counselling
  • Communication is a transaction between counsellor and the entire family
  • Major focus is the interactions within the family system
  • Treatment methods the counsellor uses can be non- verbal
  • Primary goal of therapy is the growth of the individual
  • Communication occurs between the counsellor and the client
  • Major focus is the intrapsychic (workings of the mind and personality) forces of the client
  • Treatment methods of the counsellor are mostly verbal
  • Primary goal of therapy is to change the family’s transaction patterns

2. Which is better: family therapy or individual counselling?

Both have their own benefits. It is up to the client or the family to decide which approach to try. For some problems where there is an obvious family influence on the client’s issues, family therapy might be more useful. For example: a child suddenly develops behavior and academic problems at school at the same time that his/her parents are divorcing.

3. How long does family therapy take?

The number of sessions varies from one family to another depending on the type of problem, family members’ cooperation and therapist’s competence along with other factors. Typically, family therapy is more solution-focused and shorter than individual psychotherapy. On average, it make take anywhere between 5 to 20 sessions.

4. Is the whole family involved in family therapy?

Generally, yes. It depends on the preference of the family and marriage counsellor. Some choose to have the whole family coming to every session while others choose to meet individuals or subgroups in the family (parents, siblings, grandparents) separately for some sessions. Most therapists will insist on having the entire family attend the first introductory session.

5. How does the whole family coming to a session help?

It is often seen that the way that family members interact with each other during the sessions in the presence of the counsellor is similar to the way they behave at home. During sessions, the therapist can point out such patterns of interaction and the family can become aware of how their pattern of interaction might be contributing to the problem they have come to counselling for. If the entire family is not present, such opportunities for observation and insight are lost.

6. Who is a family therapist?

A family therapist, is a mental health professional, who uses the theories of family therapy(explained above) to help his/her clients with their problems. There are many different approaches within the umbrella of family therapy and a family therapist might follow any one he/she is competent in and comfortable with.

7. What sort of qualifications should a family therapist have?

In India, there is no separate degree in marriage and family therapy like in the U.S. Here, you might have counsellors, clinical social workers, clinical psychologists or psychiatrists who have experience dealing with families and couples and have knowledge of family and marriage therapy theories. Master’s degrees in counselling with a specialization in family and marriage therapy are available in a few colleges in India as are diplomas and certificate programs in couple counselling and family counselling.

8. What are the common problems that family therapy can help with?

Family therapy can help with a wide range of problems like marital problems, divorce,substance abuse and alcohol abuse treatment, behavior problems in children, families dealing with major mental illness or emotional disorders, patients and families who care for them etc.

If you are considering counselling and have any more questions about family therapy and its suitability to you and your situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us at TalkItOver.

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