The most commonly used family therapy theories are structural, strategic, intergenerational, systematic, and experiential. Family therapy is used to approach issues among family members. The need for various techniques stems from the different types of problems, personalities, and situations that may occur, which often requires personalized treatment. Professional therapists usually determine the method of therapy that is needed by evaluating the involved patients and gathering information on any issues that they are experiencing.
Structural family therapy theories use interaction and observation of family structures to determine what problems need to be addressed and changed. The therapist becomes directly involved and may act as a family member to help practice communication. Diagnosis of family interaction is needed to identify problem areas and create solutions to allow the family unit to avoid misunderstandings and verbal barriers. A few primary techniques used in this family therapy technique are reframing, unbalancing, restructuring, and enactment.
Strategic therapy is often used to approach an individual's problems through his or her family members. Therapists who use strategic family therapy theories are interested in family background, communication skills, and relationship dynamics. Some techniques involve designing a genogram, which allows the patients and the therapist to construct a family tree. Background information on immediate and extended family members can sometimes be helpful when searching for the root of a problem. Like strategic therapy, intergenerational family therapy theories are also based on a transmission process in which attitudes, anxieties, and behavior are passed from generation to generation.
Systematic family therapy is heavily based on the family working as a whole and viewing individual problems as family problems. Most therapists have family members interact with each other in order to determine relationship types and how each family member perceives the others. Once the therapist observes how the family interacts, he or she may suggest role play or attitude reversals in order to show family members alternative ways to handle problems. By performing these activities, the therapist is able to avoid any family member placing blame and enabling them to experience family life through the eyes of each other.
Experiential therapy places emphasis on releasing honest emotions, discussing the present, and fulfilling individual roles. One of the main purposes is to avoid blame and emotional suppression, which may cause additional tension at home. There are numerous other family therapy theories, and patients may undergo more than one before finding a therapy that works for the family. Extensive research has been done on most of these theories, and patients should research programs to determine which one may be most suitable for their particular family problems.