What are the Different Types of Family Therapy Approaches?

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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2019
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Family therapy approaches bring about change by helping clients understand why they act the way they do. The strategic approach analyzes why someone behaves a certain way in a particular situation and teaches the client different ways to act. A solution-based therapy approach helps the client establish goals for change, while the narrative approach aims to improve self-image. Behavioral therapy approaches focus on reinforcing positive behavior to solve problems and improve communication skills.

During solution-based family therapy, the therapist commonly helps the client alter his or her perception about how change occurs. The therapist might point out how an issue was addressed in the past and encourage the client to recognize why attempts to solve the problem failed. He or she might ask the client to remember a time when a tactic worked and analyze why it was successful. Family therapy approaches often break down problems into manageable segments to bring about change.

Behavioral family therapy approaches center on reinforcing desired behavior to improve communication within a family, rather than focusing on negative acts. This method operates on the theory that actions are learned responses acquired from past experiences. Therapists using this type of counseling encourage families to focus on the present and not dwell on the past. Families might learn ways to use positive reinforcement to achieve conflict resolution.


Narrative family therapy aims to change a client’s negative thinking that might cause him or her to internalize problems. By changing the client’s self-image and how he or she perceives life, negativity may decrease. A therapist commonly uses examples of the client’s strengths and positive attributes to help him or her recognize how thoughts might benefit an individual.

Family therapy is commonly sought to address parenting problems, especially in blended families or single-parent households. It also may prove helpful in times of change, such as a death in the family or divorce. Family therapy approaches aim to mend relationships and solve contentious issues that cause stress.

Some therapists specialize in marriage counseling or parenting skills. They might teach a couple better ways to communicate to improve their relationship and learn healthy ways to disagree. If a family experiences difficulty with teens, a therapist might be sought who provides insight into adolescent problems or who specializes in sibling rivalry.


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Family therapy also offers the advantage of allowing a "safe" place for family members to tell each other things they might not otherwise. Of the emphasis is on solving problems, those get forced to the surface whereas a lot of family members simply keep things that bug them to themselves for the sake of domestic tranquility.

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