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What Are the Different Types of Family Therapy Activities?

By L. Baran
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Family therapy is a type of psychological treatment that focuses on improving the relationships and communication between family units. There are a number of family therapy activities designed to help members deal with past trauma, disagreements and lack of positive interactions. Activities include games to learn more about each individual, teamwork challenges, counseling, role play and art therapy.

Many family therapists will use fun games to help family members learn more about each other, in the hopes that this will facilitate more mutual understanding and respect. These might include quizzes, true or false games, fill in the blank, and multiple choice questions. Answers focus on details about each individual's likes, dislikes, feelings and goals, and allow families to enjoy concentrating on the elements that make them similar and unique.

Teamwork challenges are popular family therapy activities because they encourage communication and problem solving. Challenges can be as simple as word problems or as complex as outdoor teamwork pursuits. Families can experience frustration, differences of opinion, and leadership challenges while under the guidance of a therapist who can act as a neutral party and facilitate open discussion.

Counseling is a more traditional type of therapy. Each family member is given time to talk and express his or her feelings in response to questions from the therapist. The communication is guided by the professional in order to prevent anger or frustration from escalating.

Role play is one of the most commonly used family therapy activities. It allows family members to see how they are perceived by others in the family unit and highlights the major issues that prevent positive interactions. Role play also allows people to feel more comfortable saying things they might now be able to in a simple counseling session. For younger children, role play with puppets can also be a helpful tool to express more complex or difficult feelings.

One form of therapy that is particularly useful in families with younger children is art therapy. Often, children are able to express themselves through pictures more successfully than with words due to their limited vocabularies or their more advanced visual and perceptual skills. Children can also use their imaginations to express their desires and emotions through art. Small details including color, facial features and background can provide a significant amount of information about a child's internal emotions. Art may be one of the less popular family therapy activities for adults, but should be embraced as a means to include all family members in the communication process.

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Discussion Comments
By Mor — On Jul 25, 2014

@umbra21 - That's why you need a good therapist for this kind of thing. Family therapy is very difficult because you're dealing with all kinds of hidden dynamics and often everyone is very defensive or generally tense and worried.

A good therapist will guide you into whatever activities are going to help, even if you have to learn how to communicate first.

By umbra21 — On Jul 24, 2014

@croydon - Words are very important though and I think one thing that people need to realize is that during therapy, especially group therapy, words and images should be taken at face value. Little kids will often draw extremely lurid looking images and parents can get very upset over them because they blow the meaning out of proportion.

If your child draws a person bleeding from a knife or something dramatic like that, it doesn't mean they want to go on a killing spree. Listen to what they say about the picture and believe them. Otherwise you'll do more harm than good.

By croydon — On Jul 24, 2014

I always thought art therapy was going to be too silly to work well, but it can actually be quite soothing. Not everything works, and sometimes it does strike me as funny the things that the counselor says about the drawings, but I do get quite a lot of use from being able to structure my thoughts that way.

I can really see how it would help children to express themselves during family counseling sessions. It would give them a way to describe feelings that they might not be able to put into words.

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