Family therapy, also known as conjoint family therapy is a technique or a subfield of psychotherapy which basically focuses its attention towards helping couples and families cope up with the various kinds of problems they are facing in their relationships. They aim to get to the root of the situation and the reason why problems arise and then systematically resolve these by encouraging the interaction between the family members (Kissane, 2002, p. 26). As part of what such psychologists study, they focus on the importance of family, discussions and keeping in mind what the others feel about the same situation. In their opinion, everyone has different views on a particular subject and it is a great deal of help to have views from all sides of the family so that each one knows what the other has in mind. Their therapy sessions involve direct family interactions where listening and understanding the other side of the story is a crucial factor.
These therapeutic sessions try to instill sense, wisdom, co-operation, consideration and understanding towards family members. Different schools of thought have varying beliefs and approaches to the resolution of a problem. In case of conjoint family therapy, the therapists drive the conversation and discussion in a way so as to make everyone vent out and speak their mind and engage them with each other (Pinsof, 1995, p. 98). The clinicians have viewed the families to be an institution of trust, comfort and being supportive which is why it is integral to maintain a balance in this particular setting. Family therapy is not just restricted towards one problem; it can be regarding any issue within the institution involving marital problems, eating disorders, lack of trust, psychological problems or any other issue that might arise. The nuclear family is recognized as the most intimate and personal set of space that an individual can have and is given considerable importance in terms of stability and having the right environment because it has the most vital role and impact in an individual's life (Hoffman, Techniques of Family Therapy, 1967, p. 145).
Conjoint Family Therapy works on the relationships existing within the whole unit and uses it as its primary treatment area. This method proves to be quite effective due to the approach of taking the problem as a whole rather than on individual basis. In this process, the problem is not seen as being caused by any one of the members; instead the patient is identified and worked upon with the help of the family members. Virginia Satir, Milton Erickson and Murray Bowen are just a couple of therapists who have come up with their own theories and have worked towards this field. The different theorists take up several different approaches and build upon those with their own arguments and developments that have been highly contributing towards the conjoint family therapy.
The therapists working for conjoint family therapy approaches usually emphasize upon the roles that each member plays within the family circle and how they influence the relationships, the communication and the interaction of the whole unit.
Techniques of Conjoint Family Therapy
Family therapy can take up various forms of techniques through which it is practiced. These include:
Media and Communication Psychology
Family Therapy sessions can range between 5 to 15 sessions normally and they might exceed in exceptional circumstances. The therapist usually calls in all or most of the family members for the meeting at the same time. This is preferred because everyone's presence gives a wider and more accurate background to the problem. It greatly helps in the identification of the root of the problem. Different members share their own point-of-view and they might have different perceptions about the cause of the issue. Having everyone's opinion on things adds credibility and reliability. Therapists encourage the interaction and involvement with each other at home so as to encourage better communication and understanding for each other (Hoffman, Foundations of Family Therapy: A Conceptual Framework for Systems Change, 1981, p. 27).
In some cases, therapists may probe into past situations where they feel that the current problem may be due to some kind of childhood incident or trauma. For instance, in case of a child's abnormal behavior, it may have something to do with something that occurred in his or her early years of life and as per Freud's beliefs that will impact the child for the rest of the life. By having every member of the family present, it is much easier to get to the depth of the problem and acquire a solution that would help straighten things up (Obudho, 1983, p. 91).
Effectiveness of Conjoint Family Therapy in children
Statistics and records have shown how conjoint family therapy can be a useful technique to help resolve family problems. There are a few reasons which are why this is so:
Believe it or not, in every child's life, the most heavy and crucial impact is that of the family. Sometimes, this might not be shown by the child and would be hidden well but the family impacts the child in more than one way. Any disturbances within the setting will disturb the child in some way or the other.
Because children have a limited thinking process and they are restricted in the way they absorb and perceive things, it often puts them off if something is directed towards them. A young child, if indulged in therapy alone might start thinking that something is wrong with him or her. If the conjoint family therapy is conducted, it is more likely that the reasons for the problem can be diagnosed without the child blaming himself or perceiving something wrong with them. The child may retaliate or subject to other ways if it is shown that the child is being treated for something (Burnham, 1988, p. 61).
The strongest hold in a child's life is also that of the parents which is why the unit is interlinked and important to keep stable. The entire therapy session might fall apart if the parents are not supportive of the results or solutions suggested by the doctor. This clearly indicates that a family unit works together and cannot function individually. If every unit is isolated, the process may become lengthier, more difficult and not so smooth. If given a healthy and stabilized environment to grow in, the child will overcome whatever problem he or she is going through but the influence of the family determines how effective this will be (Greenlea, 2008, p. 121).
It is not necessary for the child to be dealing with family issues only but even in such cases that have external implications, conjoint family therapy proves to be a suitable way in which to resolve problems. If something is bothering the child in school, they are being bullied or there is any other reason, the support and comfort that a family can extend is exceptional and can quickly sort things out by motivating the child and giving him or her strength to fight against their problem (Draper, 2005, p. 147).
Limitations of Non-Conjoint Therapeutic Methods
There are certain aspects of therapies that are overcome by the conjoint methods. The other methods have some drawback or the other which will be discussed here. Firstly, non-conjoint therapies where the children and the parents are coming in for separate sessions, this process can be very time consuming, lengthy and diversified. Although, this may give a whole new perspective on things and the individuals may be more open without anyone else as part of the session, there are lots of things that are not disclosed or properly quoted and verified in this manner.
Non-conjoint therapies will also be involving various therapists because finding a person who everyone is comfortable and has their expertise in will be quite a challenge. With conjoint family therapy, everyone will be comfortable with the therapist because there is no direct interaction and it is usually an open discussion with ideas coming in from all sides. The problem will be more open and easier to catch with the conjoint theory (Hoffman, 1993, p. 37).
Reaching a solution and helping everyone stay on track will also be more beneficial in conjoint methods because the therapist knows what every individual and can assess how far every member has grasped the problem. They can ease the struggle of the family by reaching out to every member as per their requirement. Where the problem lies within the family unit itself, the non-conjoint therapeutic measures can be quite difficult to conduct, organize and direct.
History and significance of conjoint family therapy
Many cultures have therapeutic sessions in order to resolve family problems and resolve whatever is creating issues among the members. All these interventions had some kind of formal ways in which they would conduct sessions and resolve the matter. Previously, cultures would include the extended families into the procedures and something…