Family therapy is an important component of treatment, both in terms of understanding familial patterns that may have been contributing factors and in terms of empowering family members to be more effective in supporting their loved one’s recovery. Initially, family therapy takes place two to four times per month. The focus for family and friends is:
1. Educational – i.e. it is essential for family members to understand the dynamics of the eating disorder so that they can disengage from the pattern of blaming and/or rescuing that is often present when the individual with the eating disorder is at her worst
2. Insightful – Eating disorders are often passed on from generation to generation, or are a part of the patient’s family culture. Other family related issues such as divorce, illness or death of a family member or parenting styles can play a role in maintaining the disorder
3. Behavioral – there is a strong behavioral element in the continuation of most eating disorders. The triggers and/or reinforcer’s must be identified and altered for the individual to regain her health
What is family therapy?
Family therapy is a type of psychotherapy coming out of systems theory, which is a discipline used to solve problems in relationships. The relationships can be between the parts of an engine, a school system or a family. It is particularly useful in the treatment of certain disorders, primarily those that are impacted by family interactions. Such disorders include:
- Eating disorders, such as Anorexia, Bulimia, Bulimarexia & Binge Eating Disorder
- Marital problems
- Divorce counseling
- Substance abuse
- Depression or bipolar disorder
- Chronic health problems, such as asthma or cancer
- Grief, loss and trauma
- Parenting skills
- Emotional abuse or violence
- Financial problems
Therapists known as marriage and family therapists usually provide family therapy. These therapists provide the same mental health services as other therapists, simply with a specific focus — family relationships.
Family therapy can stand alone, when the problem stems from family interactions, or it can be supportive by helping family members cope when a family member has a serious problem such as a severe eating disorder or substance abuse.
In some cases, family therapy may be ordered by the legal system. Adolescents in trouble with the law may be ordered into family therapy rather than serving jail time, for instance. Violent or abusive parents are sometimes spared jail if they enter family therapy. Divorcing couples may also be required to attend family therapy to prevent emotional trauma to the children involved.
Starting therapy with a family therapist can be one of the best things you do when your family is torn apart. You can heal emotional wounds, come to understand one another better and restore a sense of harmony you may not have felt for a long time.