As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist I am often asked if I see children and teens in my practice. The answer is yes; but, not in the traditional sense.
In Family Therapy, the first few sessions of psychotherapy with a child or adolescent will also involve meeting with either or both parents and their siblings. The therapist’s task is to consult with the family to assess their unique interactional patterns, to define the problem and to specify the goals and objectives of therapy.
During the assessment phase someone in the family describes the problem. The Family Therapist may bring the whole family together for a session. He or she may also meet individually with other family members based upon the belief that a child’s problem or adolescent’s behavior is best viewed in the context of the interaction patterns between family members.
During the process of goal formation these communication patterns are important. First, they contribute to the psychological health of the family and, second, they clarify the dynamics of the problem as defined by the family.
Finally, drawing upon the strengths and wisdom of the family the therapist works within the interactional patterns to help bring about a solution to the problem. Therapy is concluded when the goal that the family identified is achieved.
This emphasis upon the family system as opposed to focusing exclusively on the individual sets family therapy apart from more traditional approaches. In the end, this approach makes sense as key members of the family are engaged with and invested in change for the better that will last beyond the therapy sessions into everyday life.