The Importance of Family Therapy in Addressing Mental Health Issues

If one family member struggles with mental health issues, those problems can affect the entire family. Family therapy is available to help families learn how to communicate better and resolve conflicts.

A family therapist is an individual with specific training in dealing with families and their relationships. Generally, these professionals are psychologists or social workers.


Many of the problems that bring families to therapy involve mental health issues. These include coping with an illness, dealing with the death of a loved one, overcoming addictions and resolving conflict. During family therapy, these issues are discussed so members can better understand and support each other.

Depending on the type of family therapy, these issues are addressed in various ways. Some approaches use behavioral techniques, including skills training and psychoeducation. Others, such as narrative family therapy, encourage family members to share their stories.

During family therapy sessions, the therapist needs to be neutral and nonjudgmental. Otherwise, the therapist may perpetuate the guarded facade that some families put up. The therapist must also be willing to listen to micro-challenges and address the needs of each family member.

Problem-Solving Skills

Family psychiatry and therapy can help families improve communication skills and strengthen bonds. Whether your loved one is dealing with schizophrenia or another condition, family members can learn more about the situation, what to expect in treatment and how they can actively support the person during and after treatment.

A family therapist may use various techniques to teach problem-solving skills, including role-playing during sessions, practicing with imaginary scenarios, assigning homework exercises, and finding a therapist that everyone feels comfortable with and trusts is important. A therapist’s training and experience can greatly affect the session’s effectiveness. The most important thing to remember is that family therapy does not replace individual treatment or medications for your loved one.


For families dealing with addiction, family therapy can help address codependent behaviors that endanger a loved one’s recovery. Family therapists may also provide additional education about substance use disorders and offer strategies for improving communication.

Regardless of the mental health condition, family therapy can help if members are struggling to cope with financial difficulties, marital issues, or other stresses. It can also be helpful if an ill or injured family member needs to be hospitalized. Many rehabs and other treatment facilities have family days or visiting times during which loved ones can visit their loved ones in a less formal setting. These visits can be a great opportunity for family therapy, which is not intended to replace the need for individualized counseling. Participation in family therapy may increase the effectiveness of treatment.


Several studies have shown that when families better understand their loved one’s mental health conditions, they can often provide more support and have better outlooks. They can also help prevent relapses.

Family therapy is also useful in addressing grief related to the death of a loved one or major life changes. Grief can cause family members to feel distanced from one another, and it can be challenging to find ways to communicate.

The core principles of family-focused grief therapy are well-adhered to by most therapists. For example, therapists consistently emphasized a high-quality therapeutic alliance. In addition, they affirmed family strengths in over 90% of sessions. During the assessment, intervention, and termination phases, they always focused on the four key themes of FFGT (grief, communication, cohesiveness, and conflict).


Family therapy can help resolve conflicts, even if the root cause is unrelated to mental health issues. For example, a family therapist may facilitate conversations between parents and children about dealing with a sibling’s drug addiction or addressing conflict over a major life change like a move.

Family therapists often take an approach to family counseling called systemic family therapy. This type of family psychotherapy views each member within the context of a larger family system, including the family members’ cultural, religious and political beliefs and the dynamics of past relationships.

This approach focuses on examining the family’s interactions in a nonjudgmental manner and teaching family members skills to communicate more effectively. It can help families break down barriers that prevent them from reaching their full potential as a unit.