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What Is Family Therapy?


family in therapy

The Mayo Clinic defines family therapy as “a type of psychological counseling (psychotherapy) that can help family members improve communication and resolve conflicts.” The needs of each family unit will vary, as they will be dependent upon the specific individuals that make up the family. Family therapy can help a family work through a difficult period (e.g. death of a loved one, major transition, mental health illness of a family member, etc.). Through family therapy, family members have an emotionally safe environment to address specific issues that may be affecting the functioning and health of the family as a whole. Family therapy can help reduce distress and conflict by improving the systems of interactions between family members. 

The Format

There is a common misconception that family therapy is only considered as such when the therapy session occurs with every member of a family of origin present. However, it is considered family therapy when two or more members of a family unit engage in psychotherapy sessions together. The term, family also has a broader definition for the purposes of family therapy. As Laney Cline King (LCSW) asserts that family as “defined by the modern family therapist is anyone who plays a long-term supportive role in one’s life, which may not mean blood relations or family members in the same household.” The difference between individual therapy and family therapy is that instead of focusing on an individual’s issues, a family therapy clinician views presenting problems as somewhat of a system malfunction that needs adjusting. The providing mental health professional may employ certain psychotherapeutic techniques and exercises to help the family unit heal as a whole. According to the Mayo Clinic, the typical duration of a family therapy session lasts about fifty minutes long. 

What Is The Point?

The underlying reason or reasons as to why family therapy may behoove a family unit is unique to each family. The dynamics established in each family unit are distinct and unique to each family. The initial rolls assumed by the respective family members that make up a unit often remain unchanged regardless of the age at which they were assumed. Long-time non-kin relationships are generally forced to develop, as the members’ grow older so as to accommodate the evolving relationship needs that accompany maturation. However, when left untended, family dynamics stagnate and thrive on the consistency of its members continuing to assume (often outdated) rolls. This can lead to developing unhealthy relationship habits, communication issues, and ineffective conflict resolution patterns, which can manifest both within the family unit as well as with members outside of the family unit. 

For Information and Support 

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at

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