Marriage and family therapy techniques you might already be using
Our closest relationships are also our most complicated. Like the roots of a tree, as relationships grow stronger they also become more nuanced and vulnerable to disruption. Marriage and family therapists are trained to view every client—whether an individual, couple, or multigenerational family—from a holistic and systemic point of view. At The Chicago School, marriage and family therapists are trained in the most current systemic and relational techniques over the course of two to three years, but there are several you can start using now!
Technique #1: Reflect on the memories
Marriage and family therapy focuses on family interaction patterns. One simple way to notice these patterns is to look at old pictures or discuss old memories with family members, paying attention to their reactions. What does a family member have to say about a picture from their childhood? What feelings come up for them as they share their story? These moments can provide powerful insight into how your family member interprets events and relates to others in specific settings.
Technique #2: Put yourself in their shoes
As simple as it sounds, putting yourself in a family member’s shoes is a great way to solve problems according to the principles of marriage and family therapy. By roleplaying in an argument, so that each person may demonstrate how they’d work with the other, couples and families can better understand how the other person thinks, feels, and reacts to conflicts, paving the way to identify a resolution.
Technique #3: Reframing an issue
Marriage and family therapy programs emphasize treating root relational issues. One simple approach that you may already be using is reframing a “problem” as a way the other person has successfully dealt with an issue in the past. By approaching difficulties in this way, you tackle situations in a more collaborative, problem-solving manner that encourages family members to rethink problems and find a solution together.
Technique #4: The strategic approach
A common technique used by marriage and family therapists is to assign “homework” to family members. This “homework” usually relates to working on a specific weakness, similar to how a personal trainer might provide workouts to strengthen a weak muscle. For example, a therapist may assign a patient to tell others when they’re feeling upset.
Some families may already use this technique, without formal instruction from a therapist. By strategically assigning family members a productive, personal goal, a family’s relational style often improves.
Technique #5: Plan a time to meet or have fun
Finally, couples and families may benefit from scheduling specific “fun days” or meeting times. While the purposes of these two occasions vary, the bases are the same: families are more likely to spend time together and relate to one another if they’ve scheduled to do so.
Family weekends or vacations may be an option with this technique. Planning a special day or event can help mitigate tensions and unite a family group. Similarly, couples and families wishing to have structured meetings to discuss life and/or treatment can benefit from setting aside time every week for a family meeting. Setting this expectation helps ensure that couples and families really talk about the things they intend to. The key is to honestly set aside this time for connection—keep those cellphones put away and on silent!
Interested in learning more about marriage and family therapy? Request more information by filling out the form below or visit our marriage and family therapy program page.
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