How Do You Tailor Therapy for Different Family Structures?

How Do You Tailor Therapy for Different Family Structures?

In the diverse landscape of family structures and dynamics, therapy professionals are constantly adapting their methods. We've gathered insights from a Marriage and Family Therapist Associate and a Clinical Director, among others, to share their strategies. From listening to understand unique dynamics to tailoring resources for diverse family structures, here are four expert techniques to enhance therapeutic practice.

  • Listen to Understand Unique Dynamics
  • Assess Individual and Collective Family Needs
  • Adapt Methodology to Family Situations
  • Tailor Resources for Diverse Family Structures

Listen to Understand Unique Dynamics

In my experience, the best way to tailor individualized therapy for different family and couple systems is to listen. Listen with curiosity, acceptance, and openness. Basically, I assume I know nothing about their situation, even if I have helped a family or couple in a similar situation before. Each family system has a unique dynamic and culture, and I want to learn about it before I start mucking around in their system. So, I ask a lot of questions to learn. Essentially, I see the client as the expert on their lives. After all, they are living it 24/7. I am merely a guest who has been invited in to guide them through their blind spots—blind spots I won't see unless I listen and understand their situation. So, I listen.

Amanda Averbeck
Amanda AverbeckMarriage and Family Therapist Associate, Authentically Rooted Counseling

Assess Individual and Collective Family Needs

When I start my work with any family, I like to meet with the family together, then individually. This allows me to see the dynamic and any issues or communication challenges. Meeting with each member of the family unit individually allows me to hear the perspective of each family member and assess their individual challenges and strengths. Then, I meet with the family together to determine the best approach to help the family. Throughout the work, I will regularly check in and meet with individual members as needed. My goal in any family work is to help increase communication and the overall family dynamic. My approach allows me to meet each family where they are at and take any factors unique to that family into consideration.

Julie Payne
Julie PayneDoctor of Marriage and Family Therapy (DMFT) & Licensed Marraige & Family Therapist (LMFT), Julie Payne MFT, Peninsula Center for Children and Families, & Thrive In Schools

Adapt Methodology to Family Situations

It's important for all therapists to assess the family's situation and adapt their methodology accordingly. When utilizing a specific approach or a combination of approaches, a therapist must carefully assess client/family relationships, trauma, and substance use, if any. When integrating family therapy models, therapists often utilize elements from different models to create a more thorough and efficient treatment plan.

A therapist must be able to improve communication, build stronger relationships, define boundaries, and manage conflicts within the family system. By improving how family members interact and relate to one another, targeted family therapy can effect change in these relationships. When individuals are affected by mental health or substance abuse, family members may lack awareness of how to help. Through therapy, family members can learn more about what they can do to support their family member and improve the relationship.

Dr. Ken Goodrich
Dr. Ken GoodrichClinical Director, Milton Recovery

Tailor Resources for Diverse Family Structures

As a speaker, content creator, and founder of Stay Here, I’ve worked extensively with diverse family structures and dynamics in the context of mental health, particularly focusing on suicide prevention and recovery from addiction. Our comprehensive resources include detailed guides on how family therapy can support people in recovery from substance abuse, providing clear steps and therapeutic approaches that acknowledge unique family dynamics.

For instance, when navigating substance abuse treatment, we refer to the booklet 'What Is Substance Abuse Treatment? A Booklet for Families,' which outlines symptoms, treatment methods, and recovery processes specifically tailored to varied family settings. Family therapy sessions often emphasize improving communication and healing, critical in diverse family structures, whether single-parent households or extended families living together. Each session is designed to address specific familial roles and interactions that may impact recovery.

In addressing parental substance abuse affecting teens, we use the pamphlet 'It's Not Your Fault' from NACoA, which reassures teens and encourages them to seek support. By customizing our approach based on family unit dynamics, such as blended families or multigenerational homes, we ensure that the therapy is relevant and effective for each unique situation. We’ve seen significant positive outcomes when these specific family-centered strategies are employed, leading to better communication and healing within the family unit.

Jacob Coyne
Jacob CoyneFounder, Stay Here

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