What you can expect

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Family therapy typically brings several family members together for therapy sessions. However, a family member may also see a family therapist individually.

Sessions typically take about 50 minutes to an hour. Family therapy is often short term — generally less than six months. However, how often you meet and the number of sessions you'll need will depend on your family's particular situation and the therapist's recommendation.

During family therapy, you can:

  • Examine your family's ability to solve problems and express thoughts and emotions
  • Explore family roles, rules and behavior patterns to identify issues that contribute to conflict — and ways to work through these issues
  • Identify your family's strengths, such as caring for one another, and weaknesses, such as difficulty confiding in one another

Example: Depression

Say that your adult son has depression. Your family doesn't understand his depression or how best to offer support. Although you're worried about your son's health, conversations with your son or other family members erupt into arguments and you feel frustrated and angry. Communication diminishes, decisions go unmade, and the rift grows wider.

In such a situation, family therapy can help you:

  • Pinpoint your specific challenges and how your family is handling them
  • Learn new ways to interact and overcome unhealthy patterns of relating to each other
  • Set individual and family goals and work on ways to achieve them

In the end, your son may be better equipped to cope with his depression, and the entire family may achieve a sense of understanding and togetherness.

Nov. 08, 2014