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How to Conduct a Family Therapy Session

by Saylor Connors

Family communication is an evolving and complicated issue for most families. Sometimes a family therapy session is the only place where each family member can have a voice. As children grow and marriages evolve, the lack of communication within a family may cause issues, anger and sadness in some family members. Family therapy sessions help with issues like divorce, financial problems, grief, depression, stress and substance abuse. As a counselor, you will need to have all voices heard to find out what issues or problems each of the family members bring to the family dynamic.

Research and Background

Ask the family member who initiated the family session why he feels the family needs the therapy.This will give you his perspective on the situation and on what is happening to the family.

Find out which family members are involved, and invite them to the sessions. Let each family member know that the therapy will not be effective if anyone misses a session. It is best to reschedule if one family member cannot make it to a session.

Conduct an individual and private session with each family member before commencing the family session.

Ask all family members why they think they need a family session. Inquire if they have any issues with the family or any individual members of the family.

Take notes on each session. Make sure you write down each family member's thoughts and concerns for future reference.

Recommend individual counseling for those members who have problems stemming from trauma or childhood problems. They will continue to bring their issues to the family dynamic, so it is critical to resolve their issues to help the family unite.

Family Session

Review your notes from each session you had with individual family members. This will refresh your memory and let you understand more background information before you conduct your family session.

Set rules for the family therapy session. Ask members to contribute to how the session will be conducted. Some members may insist on having one person at a time speak, or perhaps there may be a time limit set for each person. Let each person contribute.

Begin by asking each member what kind of family dynamic they prefer. You can ask them if they prefer a family that is close, laughs a great deal and takes fun-filled family vacations without drama.

Ensure that each member is allowed to speak without interruption. You will be acting as a mediator on how the session is conducted. You will also be enforcing the rules the family has set in advance.

Start to resolve each individual issue that the family has brought up. Give each family member an opportunity to provide a solution.

Apply values and standards to the solutions to the family issue that fit within that family's value system. Devise a followup to find how the solutions are working, and invite individual family members to contact you to ask questions.

Meet with individual family members to see if the resolution is what they expected. Inquire if they feel problems are resolving. Some issues may be based from family disputes; others may stem from trauma or childhood problems.

Tip

  • You may need to meet with the family for nine to 13 sessions to resolve most family issues.

Warning

  • Do not attempt family therapy without proper licensing or relevant degrees.

About the Author

A journalism graduate from Temple University, Saylor Connors has been a contributing food and travel editor to a digital media company for the past five years. Today, with her husband, a commercial pilot, Connors travels the world and teaches international cooking classes in her spare time.