What To Expect From Family Therapy

A family is a group of individuals who may be vastly different from one another but still choose to live their lives connected, whether related or not. While this can result in beautiful displays of humanity and compassion, it can also produce a plethora of unhealthy relationships and coping mechanisms, as detailed by Amen Clinics. Since these issues can be incredibly deep-seated and may even go back multiple generations, family therapy is typically the most effective way to achieve harmony.


If you've never attended therapy before, the idea of speaking with a stranger about your family's most sensitive triggers can feel uncomfortable or intimidating (via CalmClinic). Even if you've gone to individual therapy, inviting your family members into a process so personal can feel overwhelming. However, these feelings don't mean that family therapy isn't the answer for you and your loved ones. Here's what you can expect when you sign up for family therapy and how to get the most out of the experience.

Therapy requires an honest assessment

Part of your family therapist's job is to give an honest and informed opinion of where communication is breaking down for your family. If you or your family members are new to identifying and examining your issues on this level, hearing them called out by a professional can trigger defensiveness. It's important to understand that assessing the problems that brought you and your family into therapy is an integral part of the process you're all going through. Consider that resistance to starting the process may be a sign that you struggle to receive help, as explained by Psychology Today.


The issues must be professionally assessed and laid on the metaphorical table before there can be any real progress made toward repairing them. Try to keep your mind open, quiet your ego, and truly absorb the information given to you by the therapist. Keep in mind that they are highly trained to identify these patterns and be ready to give gentle reminders of this fact to your loved ones when necessary (via PsychCentral).

Therapy creates equal opportunities to share

In many families, a dynamic can form early on where the siblings or other members with the strongest personalities talk over those who are more reserved. After many years or even a potential lifetime of this playing out, it becomes automatic for the loudest voices to prevail. This can leave the more reserved people feeling perpetually unheard, unloved, unimportant, or even scapegoated (via GoodTherapy). On the other side of the coin, those that are used to running the show can begin to feel entitled to getting what they want in family interactions while also feeling pressured to meet the expectations of being the golden child (via Women's Health).


When you attend family therapy, the therapist will ensure that you and your loved ones will each receive as much time as you need to share your concerns or perspective without interruption. If your family struggles intensely with letting each other speak, you may be asked to refrain from speaking unless it's your turn to hold a specific item, such as a ball, which indicates that it's your turn to talk.

Therapy provides professional guidance

In order to benefit from the therapy process, you have to trust it, and so do your family members (via welldoing.org). This means engaging in the exercises your therapist suggests, even if you don't yet understand how they will help. Throughout the process, you and your family will be guided into uncharted waters, and you will undoubtedly feel uncomfortable. Put your trust in the professional that you and your family have chosen to help repair your relationships.


Accepting outside advice can be difficult, but getting that advice from a trusted professional is the purpose behind the whole therapy process. Do your best to use the tools you're given, follow any instructions your therapist gives you, and complete all the exercises or homework assignments you're expected to participate in. While the therapist might give out these assignments, it is you and your loved ones who will benefit from following through with them, as detailed by the Arkansas Relationship Counseling Center.

Therapy may bring out potentially shocking revelations

Even the closest families can be unaware of each other's secrets, according to Psychology Today. Many times, older family members will hide away their own traumas from their children and grandchildren. Since therapy is a safe and guided space, it may encourage these individuals to share what they've been through for the first time. Finding out that your mother, father, or grandparents have experience horrors like sexual or physical abuse can be incredibly difficult, but it can also provide the breakthrough necessary for you to understand their problem behaviors (via Life Care Wellness).


When upsetting information is revealed in therapy, don't be afraid to lean on your therapist for help processing what you've learned. They can aid you in utilizing some of the tools you've already learned through the process or introduce you to new ways of showing support to your loved one while also honoring what these revelations mean to you, your past, and your future.

Therapy requires taking accountability

One of the most uncomfortable parts of family therapy for many people is acknowledging the part they've played in another family member's pain or the overall dysfunction of the family dynamic (via Forbes). A single person is nearly never to blame for the breakdown of an entire family's functionality, and every member typically has played a part. Part of being involved in the rebuilding of a healthy family dynamic is accepting and understanding the role you've played.


Once you and your family members have each taken accountability for your part in the issues your family face, your therapist can guide you toward moving on and doing better in the future. If you feel resistance to this part of the process, ask yourself why. Remember that you're worthy of forgiveness and that forgiving yourself and your loved ones for past mistakes is actually integral to the healing process (via Healthline).