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Types of Family Therapy

Family therapy is a branch of psychotherapy that is meant to help initiate change and nurture development in intimate relationships between family members and couples.

The job of the family therapist is to facilitate conversations that act as catalysts to strengthen and improve existing connections between family members and/or loved ones.

The average number of family therapy sessions is 5-20 but the number of sessions truly depends on the situation the family or group is involved with. The important piece of family therapy is not in the number of people involved in the session but the analytical framework and perspective. Family and couples therapy is considered to be a very effective method of treatment for several mental health concerns. There are a great number of family therapies to learn about and we start with just a few below. The descriptions of these therapies are in no way definitive or exhaustive, and are meant to provide an general idea of what they are and what may make them different.

There are a range of counseling techniques used for family therapy including:

Structural Therapy

Structural family therapy is a theory developed by Salvador Minuchin. The focus of the therapy is based on five specific principles. The five specific principles include:
-the structural therapist focuses on the interactions between people rather than their individual psyches
-“Matrix of identity” based on personal interactions within the family
-Family structure based on social interactions
-“Well-functioning family” based on how family responds and develops according to family needs
-The position of a family therapist is to help the family outgrow constraining growth patterns and develop as a stronger entity

Strategic Therapy

Strategic therapy is a theory that has evolved from a combined number of a variety of psychotherapy practices. There are five different parts to strategic therapy including a brief social stage, the problem stage, interactional stage, the goal-setting stage and the task-setting stage.

Systemic Therapy

Systemic Therapy is rooted from family therapy or something known as family systems therapy. There are a number of family systems therapies that contribute to the current systemic therapy concept. In recent decades, systemic therapy has moved away from linear causality and now approaches problems as they are created in a social and linguistically influenced reality.

Narrative Therapy

Narrative therapy is different in that it encourages the person to be their own individual and to use their own skill set to address the problem and also to minimize the tiny problems in day-to-day life. The idea of narrative therapy is that in life, people create personal stories that help them identify who they are and also that they possess the proper tools to navigate their lives. The point of narrative therapy is to help clarify, develop and support the narrator in life and help guide their journey.

Transgenerational Therapy

Transgenerational therapy gives therapists the ability to examine interactions between individuals in a family across multiple generations. The family therapist’s observations and analysis of interactions helps the therapist to grasp the core issues within the family group. In addition to current issues, the therapist may also pick up on future struggles or stressful situations. Concepts of transgenerational therapy are used frequently with other therapies to help create a lens to frame the issue being addressed in sessions.

Communication Therapy

Therapy for communication issues is a common need especially as it pertains to relationship therapy and the cited issue between the couple is lack of communication. Communication issues between individuals can start from differences in cultural backgrounds and/or personal experiences. Additional situations that may contribute to communication issues include trauma, secrecy, mental health issues, etc. There are many options for addressing communication issues whether it be for an individual’s improvement or two involved in an intimate relationship. A trained therapist can help an individual decide what the best strategies may be for improving communication skills and ability. Strategies include active listening, opening lines of communication and mediated communication.


The practice of educating those with mental health conditions and their families to help empower and support them with their condition is referred to psychoeducation. Psychoeducation is a strong tool against the stigmatization of mental health conditions and those who face those challenges on a day-to-day basis. Psychoeducation is defined with four broad goals in mind:
-transfer of information
-medication and treatment support
-training and support in self-help
-an available a safe place to vent

Relationship Counseling

Relationships are not easy and simple problems in your daily life can cause stress or add strain to any relationship. Additional problems that can contribute to the stress include chronic illness, a lack of communicating effectively, cultural differences, infidelity and mental health issues. Couples may also face issues of sexual intimacy, emotional distancing, financial difficulties and a general lack of trust. Relationship counseling begins usually when a couple is trying to decide whether to work out their problems and continue to be together or if they should move on.

There are a number of additional therapies that will not be covered in this blog that include and are not limited to systemic coaching, systems theory, reality therapy and the genogram. For more information about these therapies or the therapies listed above consult your local Newport Beach family therapist.

How to Find the Right Therapist

So now that you know about the different therapies, it is time to find the right therapist. Most professional websites that offer psychotherapy services advise that you ask your prospective therapist/professional four important questions to help gauge whether or not the individual would be able to effectively treat your specific issue/situation.

  • This is my X issue. How would you treat that?
  • Are you most comfortable treating the immediate problem or the deeper issue at hand? What is your typical procedure?
  • Do you like to lead the session or do you prefer that the individual you are treating lead the way?
  • What role does your (you and your therapist) role play into your therapist’s work?

While barely scratching the surface on family therapy, hopefully this blog provides a helpful look into the various family therapies that are available to assist family groups and individuals with their issues. To get in touch with a mental health professional or a trained practitioner contact your Newport Beach psychotherapist.