What's Your Conflict Style?

The Family Therapy Interventions You Need To Know

family systems family therapy tools Mar 16, 2023
family therapy interventions, circular questioning

Family therapy, and in particular family systems therapy is based on the belief that an individual's behavior, symptoms, disorders and emotional well-being is largely influenced by their family dynamic. Family therapy interventions use various techniques to help members of the family talk and make improvements in communication, resolve interpersonal conflicts, and build stronger relationships, the best interventions are ones that can make permanent changes to the system.

What Is The Family Therapy Intervention You Should Learn First?

I use circular questioning in the first and second sessions of a counseling session to try to create a sequential description of events around how members of the family behave and feel before and after an episode of problem behavior.

This implies we need to first identify the problem around which we're investigating interactions, and in strategic/structural family system therapy, we target one problem at a time.

Sidenote- if you're curious about family systems, check out the way I explain Differentiation of Self: Bowen Family Systems 

The Family Therapy Intervention You Need To Know

Circular Questioning has helped me so much in family therapy, and I wish I'd found it sooner. It gets the family members to describe descriptions of interactions around the identified problem symptom.

It helps us understand how the identified patient is treated while the problem behavior or symptom is exhibited. It helps us learn how members of the network try to deal with the problem, and the outcomes of any attempted solutions- so we know what doesn’t work

  • Interactions that trigger the problem behavior
  • How the IP is treated before, during and after the behavior
  • How the family deal with the problem behavior
  • Any attempted solutions
  • How the nuclear family is coping

Once the cycle of interaction has been identified - like in the image above - the rest of the time in treatment can be spent on developing and finding ways to interrupt the pattern so the behaviors stop.

How To Start Using Circular Questioning In Family Therapy

You might be tempted to skip this section because it feels like I’m belaboring a point, but identifying the problem is so important - getting very specific on this issue is going to set you up well for the rest of the treatment.

Say I were to ask a new family in the office ‘ What’s The Problem? And I got an answer of “My Son is acting out”

If I were to accept that answer and not dig around using circular questioning, maybe I’ll figure things out, or maybe I wont. But when you work or think systemically, you assume that Here’s what that ALL symptoms are relationally driven.

When I assume that, I cannot just accept ‘my son’s acting out’ at face value, so I will ask need to ask more questions.


If your questions sound more like this to EVERYONE in the room, you will get so much more than ‘my son acts out’. It might sound more like:

….I get worried about my son and his school performance, so I tend to ask him a lot of questions and bug him about homework, this makes him irritable and we often get into a conflict, which can escalate to the point where I feel scared or powerless. At this point, I call my husband. Up until that point, my husband stays out of our conflict, but when he gets the call he comes in guns blazing and he takes over. My son feels ganged up on and resentful and withdraws from our relationship then acts more secretive and shows me less of his grades, and doesn’t come to me with problems so his grades drop….



What techniques are used in family therapy interventions?

It depends on the theoretical orientation you're using:

1. Structural family therapy: This approach focuses on the family structure and the relationships within it. The therapist analyzes the hierarchy and boundaries within the family and works to restructure them to improve communication and interaction.

2. Strategic family therapy: This approach focuses on addressing specific problems within the family. The therapist helps the family identify the problem and develop a plan to solve it. The therapist may assign tasks or homework to help the family work through the problem.

3. Solution-focused brief therapy: This approach focuses on identifying and building on the family's strengths to achieve their goals. The therapist helps the family to identify their desired outcome and develop a plan to achieve it.

4. Narrative therapy: This approach involves exploring the family's underlying beliefs and values. The therapist helps the family to see the problem as separate from the family and to develop a new narrative that empowers them to overcome the problem.

5. Emotionally-focused therapy: This approach focuses on the emotional bonds between family members. The therapist helps the family to identify and express their feelings and to develop a deeper emotional connection with each other.


How do family therapy interventions work?

Unlike other modalities or behavior therapy, family talk therapy interventions work by addressing the dynamics and relationships within a family system. This type of therapy is based on the belief that individuals are best understood within the context of their family and that problems arise from the way family members interact with one another.

During family therapy sessions, a trained therapist will work with the entire family to identify problem areas and develop strategies to improve communication, resolve conflicts, and strengthen relationships. The therapist may also work with individual family members to address their specific concerns or issues.

There are several different types of family therapy interventions, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, structural therapy, and narrative therapy, among others. Each approach has its own unique techniques and strategies, but all are designed to help families work through difficult situations and improve their overall functioning.

One common technique used in family therapy is called “reframing,” in which the therapist helps family members see a situation from a different perspective. This can help to shift the focus from blame and criticism to problem-solving and collaboration.

Another important aspect of family therapy is that it is often solution-focused, meaning that the therapist and family members work together to identify practical solutions to problems rather than simply dwelling on the past.

Overall, family therapy interventions can be a highly effective way to improve family relationships, resolve conflicts, and address a wide range of mental health issues. By working together as a team, families can build stronger, more supportive relationships and create a more positive and fulfilling home environment.


How can family therapy interventions help to improve relationships?

Family therapy interventions are an effective way to help families experiencing relationship issues. Family therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on the family as a system, rather than the individual. It involves working with family members to identify patterns of behavior that may be causing conflicts and develop strategies for improving communication and relationships.

Here are a few ways in which family therapy interventions can help to improve relationships:

1. Improved communication

One of the primary goals of family therapy is to improve communication among family members. In therapy sessions, family members can learn new communication skills and practice using them in a safe, supportive environment. This can help to reduce misunderstandings and conflicts, and promote more positive interactions.

2. Enhanced understanding

Family therapy interventions can also help family members to gain a better understanding of each other's perspectives and experiences. By exploring family dynamics, therapists can help family members to see how their behaviors and attitudes may be impacting others. This can increase empathy and compassion, leading to stronger and more positive relationships.

3. Conflict resolution

Conflict is a natural part of any relationship, but it can be especially challenging within families. Family therapy interventions can help family members to develop effective conflict resolution strategies and education, such as active listening and compromise. By learning how to resolve conflicts in healthy ways, families can minimize the negative effects of disagreements and work towards a more harmonious relationship.

4. Building resilience

Family therapy interventions can also help families to build resilience in the face of challenges or crises. By working together to solve problems



What kind of issues can family therapy interventions address?


Family therapy interventions can address a wide range of issues that can affect the dynamics and relationships within a family system. Some of the common problems or challenges that can be addressed through family therapy include:

1. Communication problems: Communication difficulties can arise due to various reasons, such as differences in personality, misunderstandings, conflicts, or lack of listening skills. Family therapy can help family members learn effective communication strategies and develop a deeper understanding of each other's perspectives.

2. Parenting challenges: Raising children can be a daunting task, and different parenting styles and values can cause conflicts and stress. Family therapy can help parents learn and adopt positive parenting practices, address behavioral issues with children, and improve parent-child relationships.

3. Relationship conflicts: Family therapy can help address conflicts between spouses, siblings, or other family members. It can help identify the root causes of conflicts, develop effective ways of resolving conflicts, and improve the quality of relationships.

4. Mental health issues: Family therapy can be an effective treatment option for individuals with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. It can help family members understand the impact of mental health problems on the family system, learn coping skills, and support each other in the recovery process.

5. Life transitions: Family therapy can help families navigate through life transitions such as divorce, remarriage, blended families, or aging. It can provide a safe and supportive space to discuss concerns, explore options, and adjust to changes.


How often do family therapy interventions take place?


Family therapy interventions can take place as frequently or infrequently as needed, depending on the specific needs and goals of the family. The frequency of sessions can also depend on the severity and complexity of the issues being addressed.

Some families may benefit from weekly therapy sessions, while others may only need sessions every few weeks or months. The therapist will typically work with the family to determine the appropriate frequency of sessions based on their unique circumstances and goals.

It's worth noting that family therapy is not a quick fix and typically involves multiple sessions over an extended period of time. The length of treatment can vary depending on the progress being made and the goals of the therapy. It's important for families to commit to attending regular therapy sessions in order to see the best results from the intervention.

How do you prepare for family therapy interventions?


Family therapy interventions can help families overcome problems and improve communication. However, preparing for family therapy interventions can be challenging. Here are some tips on how to prepare for family therapy interventions:

1. Identify the issues: Before the therapy session, it is best to identify the issues that need to be addressed. Write down the concerns you have and any behaviors that are causing problems. This can help you be more efficient during the therapy session.

2. Be open and honest: During the therapy session, it is essential to be open and honest about your feelings and thoughts. This helps to create a supportive environment where everyone can express their opinions without fear of judgment.

3. Listen actively: Listening is an essential part of communication. During the therapy session, actively listen to everyone's opinions and concerns. Try to understand their perspective and acknowledge their feelings.

4. Participate fully: Be an active participant during the therapy session. Share your thoughts and feelings, and be willing to try the strategies suggested by the therapist.

5. Be patient: Change takes time, so be patient. Don't expect immediate results after the first session. It may take several sessions to see progress.

6. Practice at home: After the therapy session, practice the strategies discussed during the session at home. This helps to reinforce the lessons learned during the therapy session.

Who Created Family Systems?

1. Salvador Minuchin was a renowned family therapist who revolutionized the field of psychotherapy through his innovative approach to family therapy. Born in San Salvador in 1921, he immigrated with his family to Israel and later moved to the United States, where he became a prominent figure in the world of therapy.

Minuchin's approach to family therapy focused on viewing the family as a system, with each member playing a role in the family's dynamics. He believed that understanding these roles and the interactions between family members was essential to bringing about positive change.

His therapy sessions were known for their active and dynamic style, with Minuchin often getting involved in the family's communication and interactions. He also emphasized the importance of using humor and playfulness to help families relax and feel more comfortable during therapy sessions.

Throughout his career, Minuchin authored several influential books on family therapy, including "Families and Family Therapy" and "Family Kaleidoscope." His legacy continues to shape the field of family therapy today, and his approach to therapy remains widely practiced and acclaimed.

2.Virginia Satir was also a renowned family therapist and one of the pioneers of family therapy. Born in Wisconsin in 1916, she worked as a social worker before becoming a therapist. Satir is known for her humanistic approach to therapy, which emphasized the importance of empathy, authenticity, and self-awareness in the therapist-client relationship.

Satir's therapy sessions were characterized by her warm and compassionate demeanor, as well as her use of experiential techniques such as role-playing and guided imagery. She believed that the therapist's role was to help clients explore their feelings and experiences in a safe and non-judgmental environment, and to empower them to make positive changes in their lives.

Satir also authored several influential books on family therapy, including "Conjoint Family Therapy," "Peoplemaking," and "The New Peoplemaking." Her legacy continues to influence the practice of family therapy today, and she is widely regarded as one of the most important figures in the field.

3. Murray Bowen was a well-known family therapist and the creator of Bowen Family Systems Theory. Born in Tennessee in 1913, Bowen received his medical degree before pursuing a career in psychiatry. He was particularly interested in the ways that families interacted and how these interactions influenced individual behavior and mental health.

Bowen's approach to family therapy focused on the idea that families are systems, and that the behavior of each individual is interconnected with the behavior of the family as a whole. He believed that understanding the emotional patterns and dynamics within a family could help to identify the root causes of individual problems and bring about positive change.

Bowen's therapy sessions were characterized by his calm and non-judgmental demeanor, as well as his use of structured interventions and genograms (family diagrams) to help clients better understand their family history and relationships. He also emphasized the importance of self-differentiation, or the ability to maintain one's individuality while still remaining connected to the family system.

Bowen's legacy continues to influence the field of family therapy today, and his approach to therapy is widely used and respected. He authored several influential books, including "Family Therapy in Clinical Practice" and "Family Evaluation."

4. Jay Haley was a prominent family therapist and one of the founders of the field of strategic therapy. Born in California in 1923, Haley initially trained as a journalist before becoming interested in psychology and psychotherapy. He began working with pioneering family therapist Salvador Minuchin in the 1960s, and went on to develop his own unique approach to family therapy.

Haley's approach was characterized by a focus on the communication patterns and power dynamics within families, and he was known for his use of paradoxical interventions and strategic questioning techniques. He believed that therapy was a collaborative process between the therapist and the family, and that the therapist's role was to help the family identify and achieve their goals.

Haley was also a prolific author and wrote several influential books, including "Strategies of Psychotherapy," "Uncommon Therapy," and "Leaving Home." His legacy continues to influence the field of family therapy today, and his contributions to the development of strategic therapy are widely recognized and respected.

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