Mental Health
4 Types of Family Therapy

4 Types of Family Therapy

4 min read


Jareena Silva

Types of Family Therapy

When it comes to family therapy, there are a variety of different types that can be used in order to help a family through a tough period. While each type of therapy has its own unique approach, they all share the common goal of helping family members communicate and resolve their issues.

What is Family Therapy?

Family therapy is a type of psychotherapy that helps family members improve their relationships and communication with one another. It can be used to treat a wide variety of issues, such as marital problems, parenting issues, substance abuse, and mental health disorders. Family therapy is typically conducted by a licensed therapist who has experience working with families.

Family therapy is often short-term and the size of the group varies between families. It can involve a larger number of people or it can be a parent or guardian and a child. Each treatment plan depends on the family’s unique situation.

There are various approaches and techniques professional mental health providers utilize in family therapy. Four common types of family therapy include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Systemic Family Therapy, Structural Family Therapy, and Narrative Therapy.

How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Supports Families

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a common technique used for one-on-one care. However, the fundamentals of CBT are also used to support families. This form of CBT is called Cognitive Behavioral Family Therapy (CBFT).

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a problem-focused, action-oriented style of talk-therapy that teaches clients practical ways to identify, challenge, and replace unhelpful response patterns with adaptive, healthy thoughts, feelings, and behavioral patterns to reach one’s desired goals.

In family therapy, a mental health provider will be able to identify negative thinking patterns or communication obstacles within a family. After identifying these areas, the provider will be able to work with the individual family members and the family as a whole to create positive changes.

What does a CBFT Therapist do?

In a CBFT session, the mental health provider may start by asking each individual family member about their current moods and thoughts. This will help the provider create a baseline in order to track progress and improvement as sessions continue over time.

This will also allow the provider to understand how to best utilize each session. By agenda setting, the provider and the family will be able to create a plan and set goals moving forward.

If you’re curious about Cognitive Behavioral Family Therapy, take our Get Matched quiz to be matched with up to three providers that are the right fit for you and your family.

How Systemic Family Therapy Helps Families

Similar to CBT, Systemic Therapy is helpful for individuals and families. Systemic therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on how an individual's personal relationships, behavior patterns, and life choices are interconnected with the issues they face in their life.

A mental health professional may use Systemic Family Therapy to examine how a family interacts as one unit. They may also identify any patterns in individual family members that may be impacting positive change in a family.

What does a Systemic Family Therapist do?

There are various techniques a Systemic Family Therapist may utilize to support a family. For example, reframing involves pinpointing the way a family or an individual views themself and offers a different perspective that supports growth and positive change.

If you’re curious about Systemic Family Therapy, take our Get Matched quiz to be matched with up to three providers that are the right fit for you and your family.

How Structural Family Therapy Supports Families

Structural Family Therapy focuses on how individual family members interact with each other. The foundation of this type of therapy is based on restructuring the way a family operates in order to adjust certain aspects of interactions and communications that may be causing harm.

Structural Family Therapy may be used between families that are experiencing substance abuse, divorce, families affected by a recent illness or death, or changes in family life such as a big move.

What does a Structural Family Therapist do?

A Structural Family Therapist will allow space in sessions for each family member to voice any concerns or thoughts they think may be causing issues in the family. This allows everyone in the family to hear each other’s viewpoints. With the support of the provider, each person will be able to process each other’s viewpoints and find common understanding.

The overall goal of a Structural Family Therapist is to strengthen communication between a family and advocate for positive interactions. Read more about how Structural Family Therapy helps families go through difficult times.

If you’re curious about Structural Family Therapy, take our Get Matched quiz to be matched with up to three providers that are the right fit for you and your family.

How Narrative Family Therapy Supports Families

Narrative Therapy helps support both individuals and families, similar to the other therapy types we’ve discussed. Narrative Therapy supports people becoming an expert in their own life by making way for them to create their own narratives to heal from a hurtful past story.

Narrative Therapy helps people process their lived experiences and become an observer of their story.

What does a Narrative Family Therapist do?

A Narrative Family Therapist will use different methods to support a client. Deconstruction helps someone find clarity in their past experiences. A provider may help a person deconstruct parts of their life into smaller parts, which may make it easier to process certain emotions and thought patterns.

Additionally, a provider may help the client externalize the problem. Externalizing helps the client observe themself by creating distance between themself and the issues they’re experiencing. The provider’s role is to help the client view those issues as a separate entity in order to help them see that they can change and there is room for growth.

If you’re curious about Narrative Family Therapy, take our Get Matched quiz to be matched with up to three providers that are the right fit for you and your family.

How do we start Family Therapy?

Starting therapy, whether it's individual or as a unit, can be difficult. Starting family therapy can especially be difficult as it involves multiple people willing to participate and actively attend sessions. Having difficult conversations with those you love can be challenging, here are some tips on how to start those talks when you're ready.

When you and your family are ready to start therapy, take our Get Matched quiz to be matched with up to three providers that are the right fit for you and your family. Before your first session, you can schedule a free consultation with your providers in order to learn more about their background, style, and areas of expertise. From there, you and your family can determine if you'd like to move forward with scheduling your first session. If you've never had a therapy consultation before, here's how to get the most out of your phone consultation.

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About the author

Jareena is MyWellbeing's Community Manager and is dedicated to supporting MyWellbeing's providers in order for them to offer the best possible care for you. Jareena is a mental health advocate and aims to identify ways to destigmatize discussions around mental health and how to make care more accessible.

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