Family therapy is used to improve relationships between family members and is useful as a therapeutic tool as the focus is not on one individual family member but rather sees the family as a system. Families develop their own personality and communication style as a result of individual differences, extended family influences and situations and crises that may arise within the family system. Family members will respond in a variety of ways depending on their own capacity to cope. Family therapy can assist the whole family to identify both the strength of a family and unhealthy patterns of interaction that may contribute to family members responding to each other in negative ways.
Family therapists assist the family to improve communication, have less focus on one individual family member as being the problem and assist the family to identify patterns of interaction that may have developed due to illness, unhealthy alliances (relationships that may have come about because of family difficulties for example a child taking on an adult role due to illness or separation). Family therapy can enable families to strengthen, as they are able to work on their problems together. The aim is to enhance connection and communication among family members as research has identified this is an important factor in mental well-being.
Family therapy involves the family group, but can also include working with an individual, parents, or siblings at different times. It may also involve important others outside the immediate family. Family therapy is useful in a variety of situations, including eating disorders and mood disorders. The length of time needed for family therapy will vary depending on the willingness of family members to participate.