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All families have difficulties and conflict but there are times when conflict can become overwhelming and negative patterns of communication develop. This can lead to further conflict and the deterioration of relationships. Family therapy, also known as family and systemic psychotherapy, recognises and builds on the strengths and resources of the family. It seeks to be non-blaming and enables all family members to share their story and listen to others. Family therapy helps family members to work together to make changes within the family, and to manage conflict in a more healthy way.

Please note the word family is used in the context of a group of people who play supportive roles in each other’s lives You do not have to be related or live together to be able to find help within this model of therapy. This is why family therapy can be called systemic therapy as it can refer to systems, groups or organisations of people who are not related. Family therapists are mindful of this, so modify their approach to fit with all cultures, ages and family units.



There are a number of reasons why families seek family therapy. Below are some of the common issues that family therapists support families with:

    Support adults or children dealing with mental health problems and addiction.

    Parenting issues


    Adjusting to major life events such as bereavement, divorce and moving house or school.

    The process of adoption or fostering.

    Domestic violence and abuse.



    Family therapists create a safe and open space for the family to express their feelings and discuss their experiences. Families are encouraged to listen to each other and try to empathise with what other members are saying. The family therapist is there to guide these conversations. When challenges or conflicts emerge the family therapist is there to mediate the discussion, to support members when they struggle to express themselves, and to provide insight to help family members understand one another.

    The family therapy process is a collaborative one. Families work together alongside the therapist to deal with their issues and strengthen the relationships within the family. It is essential that each individual is heard, respected, and their hopes and goals are acknowledged. Family therapy aims to bring families closer together to enable them to communicate with one another effectively, and support each other through any future difficulties.


    Does family therapy really work?

    With the right therapist and the motivation to work through issues as a family, family therapy can be a great way to improve communication and enhance relationships.

    What are the most common problems within a family?

    Some common issues families may face are pressure at work or school; unemployment and financial problems; illness or disability of a family member; the death of a family member; drug, alcohol or gambling addiction, and domestic violence. However, due to the unique nature of every family and the individuals within them, they will all respond differently to any problem. There is nothing wrong with seeking support from a family therapist to help work through any issues or conflicts that may emerge.

    Can people attend family therapy on their own?

    Yes. You can see a family therapist one to one. In some cases a mixture of sessions are appropriate some with the whole family present, some with a few members and others one to one. This can be useful to help a family therapist understand family dynamics better.

    Is family therapy necessary if only one member of the family is struggling with an issue?

    It can come as a shock to families when one of the members is dealing with a serious problem. Family therapy can help families learn about the issue, where it may have stemmed from and develop ways to support the individual. This can be a challenging process especially when other members believe they are at fault for the issue. It is important to note that the family therapist is not there to judge or blame other members but to assist families through these difficulties.

    How do I know if a family therapist is right for me?

    Select Psychology can provide guidance and information to support your decision to choose a therapist, ultimately, the only way to find out is to attend sessions and see. Sometimes families are able to build rapport with the therapist and establish a stable working relationship. However, this is not always the case, due to no fault with the family or the therapist. If this does happen it is essential to have a discussion so a way forward can be agreed upon.


    To learn more about family therapy and systemic therapy visit The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust – Family Therapy