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Types of Family Therapy Models: A Quick Comparison

Each type of family therapy models deliver therapy treatment very differently from one another. Finding a family therapist that understands the dynamic of your family and how to approach your sessions plays a big role in the success and enjoyment of your sessions.

When you first consult with a family therapist, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the different types of family therapy models. You may want to suggest some approaches you think will benefit your family the most. Otherwise, it’s good to understand the approach the therapist recommends or takes so you also understand the other options and how to make a family therapy models comparison.

Here are a few of the most common family therapy interventions that are frequently used in treatment sessions:

  • Narrative therapy

  • Systemic therapy

  • Structural therapy

  • Solution-focused therapy

  • Intergenerational therapy

  • Marriage counseling/couples therapy

  • Communication theory

  • Cognitive Behavioral therapy

family therapy models comparison

Narrative Therapy

The approach assumes that all members are storytellers, each with their unique narrative about how the family relationship has shaped their current situation. People give meaning to their stories from personal experiences, family history, and societal influences. The therapist's role is to help family members see the different stories and how they shape family relationships.

Through narrative counseling, one can detach themselves from the problem and view it objectively instead of through a subjective lens. This enables people to trust in their skillset and better understand how to approach the problem. Through this process, family members gain greater insight into family dynamics and develop healthier family relationships.

Systemic Therapy

Systemic family therapy explores the complexities of familial issues in multiple contexts, including romantic relationships, parental roles, and interactions with extended family. This approach also takes into account a range of cultural influences, such as political views and socioeconomic status, that can shape psychological development and emotional health. By understanding the interplay between these various factors, systemic family therapy seeks to promote healing on an individual level within a larger social context. Systemic therapy can be broken down into five distinct sections:

  • deconstruction of the issue

  • identifying recurring patterns and feedback mechanisms

  • evaluating beliefs and explanations

  • understanding emotions and attachments

  • assessing contextual circumstances.

structural family therapy techniques

Structural Therapy

Structural family therapy aims to comprehend how family members interact with one another, including spouses, parents, children, and other individuals. This approach involves analyzing the intricate "matrix of identity" within the family unit, including its hierarchical structure, sub-relationships, and boundaries. It assumes that family issues arise due to family dynamics and how each family member is placed in the family structure.

The therapist identifies family patterns and roles at the root of family problems. Through direct interventions, family members can be empowered to recognize family patterns and actively work towards a family-wide solution.

Solution-Focused Therapy

This approach focuses on family strengths and solutions rather than focusing on family problems. The family therapist helps family members identify solutions to problems and set goals to work towards those solutions. This approach encourages family members to build on their strengths rather than focusing on family members' weaknesses.

types of family therapy

Marriage/Couples Therapy

This type involves spouses or romantic partners engaging in family therapy. Marriage counseling can be a helpful approach to address various issues that couples may face, such as communication breakdowns, infidelity, mental health concerns, emotional distancing, cultural differences, challenges with sexual intimacy, financial stress, and lack of trust. When couples acknowledge these issues and decide to seek counseling, family therapists can help them develop healthier communication patterns, improve their listening skills, and resolve conflict more constructively.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral family therapy is based on the idea that family members' beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors are interrelated and can be modified. This type of family therapy helps family members identify how their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are connected to help family members become more mindful of how they interact with one another. This family therapy can help family members develop healthier communication skills, better problem-solving strategies, and more effective coping mechanisms.

types of family counseling and interventions

Communication Theory

Communication is an essential cornerstone in the contemporary family unit. This should come as no surprise since solving conflicts often requires healthy and honest dialogue. Family therapy seeks to build on these conversation skills by equipping families with new strategies and perspectives that can help them navigate even the most challenging of situations. With this approach, communication becomes a key source for resolving issues within any given family dynamic.

Choosing the Family Therapy Modality That Suits you Best

While you may instantly gravitate to one family therapy model over others, it’s best to keep an open mind. Talk to your family therapist further to get more insight into what they believe is most effective for your family unit.

There’s no right or wrong way, but it can make a big difference in your experience as well as the experience of the members who are participating in your therapy sessions.



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