Family therapy aims to help family members engage with each other or individually with the counsellor/psychotherapist. Each person is treated with respect and given time to talk if they want to. Pre-verbal or non-verbal children can attend sessions. Obviously, every family is unique and therefore I cater for each family accordingly and appropriately.
The therapist and family talk together and reflect on their experiences, behaviours, thoughts and feelings. Not every member of a family may feel ready to attend therapy and it might be worth agreeing to just one session initially to meet the therapist and ask any questions they may have. This gives each family member time to reflect and helps minimise pressure on them.
Theoretical orientations are integrative with emphasis on Transactional Analysis, Attachment Theory and Psychodynamic Theory. These can be very useful when working with family dynamics, parent-parent, parent-child and child-child relationships. Parents may come to understand they are conflicting with each other and their children due to their own historical parenting. On exploration of the parents' own attachment histories it may become clearer how their behaviour is triggered by their children.
Forming a ‘therapeutic alliance’ with the therapist gives the family a sense of trust and safety allowing them to further explore memories, emotions and current experiences that are often personal and difficult to talk about. New ways of understanding experiences can be formed and old patterns of behaviour can be challenged. If a parent hasn’t been given physical and psychological safety by their parents then they may subsequently find it difficult to give it to their own partner and children.
In my work with survivors of domestic and sexual abuse, some of which are families and children, the trusting relationship is often severely compromised due to early traumatic events. Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy embraces the parent-child relationship and uses this ‘dyad’ to enable healing and maintaining of attachment-based relationships.