Family therapy generally includes at least one parent and one child but it may also include extended family, grandparents, step-parents, aunts, uncles and even close family friends. The philosophy behind family therapy is that problems often exist within a dynamic between individuals, not necessarily within individuals themselves. This type of work can help you better understand interpersonal systems and how family members are affected negatively or positively by the dynamics themselves.
The family is one of the most intimate and complex systems. If any member of the family is suffering, there can be a significant impact on the others. For instance, if a parent is struggling with depression, the spouse and the children may suddenly find themselves compensating in different ways. This can build resentment among family members, lead to financial hardship, marital discord and place the children at risk in many ways.
Traditional and individualized therapies would focus treatment onto one person only and neglect the many complex needs of the entire family unit. Family therapy looks at how each member is affected by a problem and can align with one another toward solutions. This decreases the need to place blame within any particular family member and aims to decrease defensiveness and reactivity.