Accessing Family Therapy: A Pathway to Healing and Stronger Bonds

In her soulful piece “Family Therapy Song,” Chicago-based artist Jae Jorgensen sings of the magic that family therapy can bring forth: 

“We can imagine together, create a story that changes the view 

For a brighter tomorrow with loved ones 

who understand you.”

Jorgensen is right. Family therapy can create an environment for people to express and hear each others’ heartfelt feelings and serve as a reservoir of healing for families in pain and anguish. It holds the promise of transforming relationships in families grappling with conflict or frayed ties, addiction, trauma, grief, mental health concerns, and more. As trust and emotional safety develop in the therapy space through conversation, experiential exercises, and play, wounds can heal, and families can cohere and establish more meaningful connections. Positive effects can resonate for years.

Family Therapy Activities | Addiction ...

For all its promise, family therapy can be challenging to access. The lack of available therapists and the different schedules of family members can complicate scheduling. Many insurance plans offer less coverage for family therapy, further limiting accessibility. 

In addition to these barriers, family members may have concerns about the prospect of family therapy, which can lead to reluctance. Many fear others may expose their behavior in a shaming or unflattering way. Others may worry an environment where individuals “get their feelings out” may create interactions that lead to more hurt, conflict, or relationship deterioration. Some may feel that family problems have gone on for so long that they have little hope for improvement and see family therapy as a “waste of time.” Others may sincerely believe that the solution to disharmony lies solely in others (“He just needs to stop drinking!”) and see family therapy as adding little value.

Practical Steps to Overcome Barriers

If you’re considering family therapy, here are practical steps to take with your family that address these barriers:

  1. Acknowledge concerns as valid. The truth is, family therapy can result in increased shame or embarrassment, it can result in more conflict or deterioration, there may be reasons for little hope, and sometimes problems indeed spring more from one individual than others. Ensure you clarify that others “have a point” even as you express your belief in the value of family treatment.
  2.  Ensure a “good fit.” Read therapists’ bios and reviews and solicit referrals from those you trust. Ask prospective therapists if they have specific training or experience working with families like yours. Offer other family members the chance to speak with the therapist so you can come to a consensus on who may work.
  3. Emphasize Goal-Focused Nature. Family therapy is inherently goal-focused and less likely to be “open-ended” than individual therapy. Remind people that they can raise concerns about the treatment with the therapist, alleviating pressure and anxiety about entering the work.
  4. Encourage voluntary participation. Don’t make it mandatory. Encourage everyone’s participation, but start going with the family members that want to go. If others see that therapy is helpful, they may join in.

As Jorgensen’s piece eloquently conveys, family therapy can foster new “stories,” more understanding, and deeper ties. With these approaches, you can increase your family’s chances of accessing quality treatment, leading to “a brighter tomorrow with loved ones that understand you.”

-Posted by Jonah Green, LCSW-C

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