Family can influence our perceptions, our modes of interacting, and our styles of communicating. In Family Therapy, the therapist applies therapeutic principles while engaging the participation of family members, individually and as a group. The process recognizes and reinforces constructive aspects of the family’s relationships while also allowing destructive elements and counter-productive interaction styles to be identified, acknowledged, and changed. A family is considered to be any group of individuals who are committed to one another’s well-being (usually for life).
Marital therapy assists couples in working more effectively as a couple and in cultivating mutually acceptable problem-solving strategies. A marriage is similar in its development to individual and family development in that there is a marital life cycle that has fairly predictable stages. At each stage there are interpersonal skills to be mastered and the therapist helps the couple deal with their current issues.
Typical marital problems that couples seek treatment for include:
- Inability to compromise
- Sexual difficulties
- Financial disputes
- Child-rearing conflicts
- Extended family issues (e.g., dealing with in-laws)
Marriage as a whole is different from the sum of its parts. For example, to describe the husband as an individual and the wife as an individual is not the same as describing the pair of them in relationship and interaction. The therapist helps the couple pay attention to the patterns which connect them as a means of appreciating the overall structure of their marriage.