We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Experiential Family Therapy?

Marjorie McAtee
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Experiential family therapy is a school of family psychotherapy developed by Carl Whitaker in the 1960s. It seeks to help individual family members feel more fulfilled and self-actualized by building levels of intimacy and cooperation within the family unit. This kind of therapy does not typically blame the problems of the family on the qualities of individual family members, but usually examines how family interactions cause problems for individual members of the family. Experiential family therapy generally seeks to help family members communicate and respect one another's thoughts and feelings. Family members are typically encouraged to be themselves and family secrets are usually not encouraged.

Problems among individual family members can stem from distance in interpersonal familial relationships, or from the keeping of secrets within the family. Some family members may feel compromised by the demands of the family as a whole. This can impair individuals' abilities to fully express themselves and meet their needs.

Unlike some other types of family therapy, this therapy usually requires that the therapist treat the experience as a type of therapy for himself, as well as for the family. Therapists performing this kind of therapy may become more emotionally involved with their clients than therapists operating on other theories. Experiential family therapy usually emphasizes the importance of subjective experience and individual needs. Individual members of the family are typically encouraged to reveal their unexpressed feelings and to reach new levels of interpersonal intimacy with their family members.

In order for this therapy to work, family members must generally learn to communicate with one another and respect one another's unique needs. Members of families who keep secrets and who maintain a facade to the rest of the world often feel that they cannot be themselves, make their own choices, or grow in the ways that most benefit them. Family members are generally encouraged to develop mutual respect and integrity. They are usually asked to assume a greater degree of personal independence, while working out viable individual roles that can help the family function more smoothly, with less conflict, and greater satisfaction among members.

Therapists often achieve these goals by stimulating emotionally charged situations during therapy. Once family members have expressed their bottled-up feelings, therapists can often guide the family as a whole toward establishing an environment of mutual respect, autonomy, and collaboration. Therapists typically see this work as subjective, so that family members are usually allowed to maintain their own perspectives, without being told that some are wrong and some are right.

This type of family therapy generally requires the full participation of every member of the group, and some families fail to benefit due to non-cooperation issues. Families should generally already be relatively stable in order to benefit from this kind of therapy. This type of family therapy generally seeks to enhance mental and emotional well-being among family members, rather than re-structuring the family itself.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Marjorie McAtee
By Marjorie McAtee , Former Writer
Marjorie McAtee, a talented writer and editor with over 15 years of experience, brings her diverse background and education to everything she writes. With degrees in relevant fields, she crafts compelling content that informs, engages, and inspires readers across various platforms. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a skilled member of any content creation team.

Discussion Comments

By fBoyle — On Mar 24, 2014

@fify-- Yes, my family and I participated in this therapy and it was definitely helpful. It helped us sort out issues that everyone was trying hard to cover up and ignore. The best part about this therapy is that no one is made to bear the blame.

By serenesurface — On Mar 23, 2014

@croydon-- I'm not an expert but I think that for any type of therapy to be effective, there has to be intent. I don't think that experiential family therapy will work if those participating do not think that there is a problem and do not want to put in any effort. No matter how great a therapy is and a therapist is, if people don't wan't to help themselves, it's not going to work.

But there is a possibility that after starting this family therapy, family members who thought that there is no problem might realize that there is a problem. So if you can get your family to participate in it, I think it will be of some benefit.

By fify — On Mar 23, 2014

Experiential family therapy sounds like a great idea.

There are so many people experiencing emotional problems because of their relationships with family members. Seeing a therapist or psychologist alone is not very helpful because the problem is not the individual, it's the relationship between the individual and other family members. The only way that these relationships can improve is if every person in the family puts in effort to change interactions positively. This type of family therapy seems like the best way to go about it.

Has anyone here had experience with this type of therapy? What was it like? Did it benefit you and your family?

By irontoenail — On Mar 23, 2014

@Fa5t3r - Therapy can be extraordinary or it can be pointless, just like any other human interaction. It sounds like experiential family therapy needs the exact right therapist though, if they are really encouraged to become part of the dynamic of the family.

That can be extremely effective in a Mary Poppins kind of way, but at the same time it can be a bit dangerous, because the therapy is going to have to end eventually and if all your progress depends on the therapist then it might fall apart once they end it.

By Fa5t3r — On Mar 22, 2014

@croydon - The point of therapy is to help everyone to feel more comfortable with themselves and others. Maybe they know there is a problem and maybe they don't. That doesn't change the fact that you feel there is a problem. And avoiding it only makes the situation worse.

I used to feel quite repressed around my family, and they thought of me as sullen, because I was afraid to really speak my mind. But I hated living like that and it was driving such a big wedge between me and my family that I ended up deciding that it was better to at least be honest. And they don't always like the honesty, but at least we communicate now.

I think therapy would probably have made the transition smoother or faster, but I'm not sure it would have made any difference in the long run, for us anyway.

By croydon — On Mar 21, 2014

I know that this is a problem that I have with my own family, when I see them. I feel like I can't be myself, because being myself would eventually bring about confrontations when I disagree with something one of them has said.

I end up just not wanting to be around them because I can't relax. I guess it comes from a couple of people in my family who tend to overreact to things. I can't imagine that this kind of therapy would actually help, because I don't think they think there is even a problem.

Marjorie McAtee

Marjorie McAtee

Former Writer

Marjorie McAtee, a talented writer and editor with over 15 years of experience, brings her diverse background and education to everything she writes. With degrees in relevant fields, she crafts compelling content that informs, engages, and inspires readers across various platforms. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a skilled member of any content creation team.
The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.