Family therapy can help when the family system is out of balance


“It’s always the mother’s fault” has long been a joke sarcastically adopted by some moms, a source of guilt carried as a burden by others and a barrier to seeking mental health care by those who prefer to protect from shame or blame.

While many mental health symptoms and disruptive behaviors are rooted in altered family relationships and inadequate family models, these same families often have the strengths and resources to mend and rebalance relationships.

Family therapy is a widely accepted but often misunderstood form of psychotherapy that aims to do just that – it reduces a family member’s behavioral health symptoms by altering unnecessary ways in which the family is organized and functions. Rooted in the treatment of families of patients with schizophrenia, family therapy focuses on identifying, understanding and modifying family dynamics in order to improve family functioning and reduce individual and relationship distress in the family. process.

The family system, not just the mother, is at the center of treatment. Mental Health Awareness Month, also the month in which we honor mothers, seems a good time to draw attention to the profession of Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) and its unique contributions as a profession of marriage and family therapy. basic mental health.

MFTs are licensed mental health professionals who have a master’s or doctorate degree and must pass a national exam. In addition to learning about family therapy, MFTs are trained to use many of the evidence-based approaches used by other mental health professions.

They treat individuals, couples and families who present with a variety of mental disorders. They work in many settings, including community mental health centers, partial hospitalization programs, addiction services, child welfare agencies, school programs, specialty medical clinics, purpose organizations. nonprofit and private practices.

In combination with individual treatment, family therapy is an effective adjunct for conditions such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addictions, and conduct disorders. It is also useful when couples or families are having difficulty adjusting to an acute life event such as an accident or chronic illness that puts the family system out of balance. There is a common misconception that “MFT” stands for “marriage counselor”. While it is true that many MFTs work with couples, they do so as part of the delivery of mental health care.

May is a perfect month to rethink our perspectives on MFT and Family Therapy… and Moms!

Carol Podgorski, PhD, LMFT is Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester and Advocacy Leader for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy-New York.

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