What does a Family Therapist do?

Article Details
  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
The Health and Retirement Study shows that 56% of Americans over 50 leave their jobs before being ready to retire.  more...

December 5 ,  1933 :  Prohibition ended in the US.  more...

A family therapist is a trained and licensed counselor who may come from several different training fields or designations. Such therapists may be called marriage and family therapists (MFTs), licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs), marriage, family and child counselors (MFCCs), psychologists, or psychiatrists. It may be obvious to state that a family therapist works with families or couples, but they may also work with individuals.

Family therapists may work in many different settings. Many of them work in private practice, and others might work for standard hospitals or those hospitals for the mentally ill. Some therapists not only provide counseling but also teach or supervise other therapists. The public health system may employ some family therapists to provide counseling for low income families or to help shape public policy and construct educational materials for families. There are many different ways in which a family therapist can perform his or her job.

The name family therapist does not perfectly describe the occupation — few therapists commit the whole of their practice to counseling groups and not individuals. Most therapists will offer counseling to a variety of people, in groups or individually. They’ve been trained in school and practice in the differences between counseling a group of people and counseling a single person.


In the context of working with families or couples, the therapist may conduct therapy sessions with all parties at the same time. If the therapist is truly working with multiple members of a family, this would mean having sessions with all members present. Sometimes, the family therapist might first work with parents to get a sense of what the family is seeking. When working with couples, a family therapist could see each member of the couple separately at first, or opt to work with them together.

The goal for family therapy is to look at the way individuals interact together, find ways for each family member to understand the others, and use some instruction to help families communicate more clearly with each other. Essentially the family therapist looks for the areas of interaction that are dysfunctional, where the family or couple suffers from the dysfunction. In session, the therapist can then help families see the areas where the group does not function well together, and attempts to address these in a variety of ways.

There are a number or reasons why a family or couple might seek therapy. A specific crisis could be underway or the family merely wants to find ways of more constructive relationship. The job for the family therapist can thus be extremely varied, since each group or individual client poses different challenges and is unique.


You might also Like


Discuss this Article

Post 4

@First violin: Counselors don't just "pick a side". There's many years of education that go into becoming a therapist and they have professional guidance and experience. The training they receive deals with all sorts of issues, such as the one you have mentioned, and they are trained to be non-judging, open and neutral people. You should not assume they will pick a side just because you think it is a normal thing to do. It is definitely is a normal thing to do. However, these people have many years of training and education that have shaped them into professional therapists.

Post 3

I would really encourage those who are in a dysfunctional relationship or family to seek out family therapy.

It can be so healing for both children and parents to see a family therapist, and if nothing else, if gives you an outside look at your family, which is always helpful.

They even have family therapists with certain specialties, like medical family therapists for those who have a family member with a disability or mental illness, or Christian family therapists for those families who feel that religion is a big part of their life.

So seriously, from a family therapist to the world -- if you need help, it is there. All you have to do is ask!

Post 2

So here's my question about family and marriage therapists -- how can you be sure that they are not going to just side with one person and legitimize their behavior?

Therapists are people too, and they're obviously going to have a natural inclination to feel like one member of the family is doing something right while the others are the oddballs, right?

That's why I've never been brave enough to find a family therapist, even though my family is pretty darn dysfunctional. I'm just too afraid that we would end up worse off!

Post 1

Family and marriage therapists should get combat pay! My sister is a licensed family therapist, and you would not believe the kind of stuff that she sees every day.

Grown ups acting like kids, throwing tantrums, couples who are so dysfunctional that you wonder why they ever got together in the first place since they so obviously loathe each other, and children who have been abused for so long that they don't even know what normal is are all everyday occurrences for her.

I don't know how she does it -- I would seriously just lose patience with all the craziness and tell them all to jump in a lake.

She says it's really rewarding though when you do finally get a family functioning better. I get that, and I really admire her for what she does, but that is definitely not the career for me!

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?