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Frequently asked questions

If you are considering therapy for yourself and those you care about, or if you've been asked to join family therapy sessions, you may have many questions about what this involves. Here we aim to address some ‘frequently asked’ questions.

In addition to the FAQs, please also see How To Find Help , What is Family Therapy?, What is Systemic Practice? and Messages of Hope

Frequently Asked Questions List

Question:

What happens in family therapy?

Answer:

Family Therapists aim not to take sides, blame, or provide simple ‘one size fits all’ answers. They aim to engage people in sharing understandings and views with each other and exploring ways forward that work for them.

Meetings (or ‘sessions’) with a Family Therapist usually last between 50-90 minutes, depending on client need and service organisation. The Family Therapist aims to make people feel welcome, and to give everyone a chance to contribute to discussions if they wish.

They will adapt their ways of working according to people’s ages, needs, resources and preferences. Sessions involving children, for example, often include play and drawing. Some people may wish to talk together from the start of therapy sessions, while others may prefer some individual time with their Family Therapist before deciding if, what and how to share their thoughts and feelings with others. The Family Therapist will discuss with you how you would like to work together.

Some Family Therapists work individually. Others work in teams or in partnership with colleagues. Sometimes these colleagues sit behind a one-way mirror or screen to watch therapist and family talk together and then share reflections and explore possibilities. Many families say they find this ‘team’ approach to complex difficulties very helpful.

See our Messages of Hope, where people share their experiences of Family Therapy.

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Question:

What difficulties are helped by Family Therapy?

Answer:

Research shows Family Therapy is useful for children, young people, adults and older adults experiencing a wide range of difficulties and circumstances including:

  • Couple relationship difficulties
  • Child and adolescent mental health issues
  • Adult mental health issues
  • Child, adolescent and adult behaviour difficulties
  • Parenting issues
  • Illness and disability in the family
  • Separation, divorce and step-family life
  • Anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders
  • Fostering, adoption, kinship care and the needs of ‘looked after’ children
  • Domestic violence and abuse
  • Self-harm
  • Drug and alcohol misuse
  • The effects of trauma
  • Difficulties related to ageing and other life cycle changes.
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Question:

Do family therapists only work with families?

Answer:

No. They may see children and adults individually and/or in family member groups. They may work with couples, or with other groups and communities, and with people across the lifespan, from children to older adults.

When a family is involved with several different agencies, family therapists may work with the network of professionals as well as with family members to ensure their input is co-ordinated and helpful.

Some family therapists use their understandings of relationships to work with organisations. Many use their skills in family sensitive working to train and/or supervise other professionals.

Some Family Therapists specialise in working with individuals and communities under-represented in mainstream services, including LGBT clients and those from minority ethnic communities.

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Question:

How long will it take?

Answer:

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to help people free up their strengths and find ways forward. Sometimes difficulties are more complex and families may need longer to find solutions that work for them. Your Family Therapist will be happy to discuss timings and timescales with you.

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Question:

What is meant by ‘family’?

Answer:

Different cultures and different groups of individuals have different notions of what 'family' means. AFT takes 'family' to mean any group of people who define themselves as such, who care about and care for each other.

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Question:

What if someone’s reluctant to go?

Answer:

Sometimes, when one person or group is keen to try Family Therapy others close to them may be more reluctant. This is understandable. Going to Family Therapy can feel like a big step and some people are more ready to take it than others.

It may be useful to arrange an initial meeting with the Family Therapist, to discuss the possibility of working together and give everyone a chance to air their concerns and ask questions. Your Family Therapist will be happy to discuss ways forward with you.

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Question:

What do therapists’ job titles mean?

Answer:

Fully qualified Family Therapists may also be called ‘Family and Systemic Psychotherapists’. This title is reserved for professionals who have completed high level, AFT-accredited training and who are registered with the UKCP (United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy). Therapists must evidence high standards of practice and continuous learning to maintain their UKCP registration.

For a list of AFT members who are UKCP registered Family and Systemic Psychotherapists offering private practice, please see AFT’s Therapist Directory (PDF).

The term ‘systemic practitioner’ refers to a person who has completed training in Family and Systemic Psychotherapy to intermediate level.

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Question:

What if I’ve got more questions?

Answer:

You are likely to have more questions specific to your circumstances. You may, for example, have queries about the confidentiality of what is discussed in therapy; who might be included in sessions; plus the time, place and duration of meetings and, if relevant, session costs and charges for cancelled appointments. You may wish to enquire about the therapist’s professional experience and training. These are important matters and your family therapists will be happy to discuss them with you when you first talk or meet.

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