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What is Family Therapy from a Relational Perspective?

Family therapy is relationship therapy because it deals with the family members not as individuals, but in the context of their relationships. For me, family therapy is seen from a relational perspective. It does not isolate one family member as “the problem”. Often in a family one member may be labelled as “the problem” and all the other members then tend to use them as a “scapegoat” for their own difficulties. For me no individual member is seen as the “problem”, instead the focus is on the entire family and how each person plays a role in contributing to what is happening.


Opening a new perspective

The move away from the individual helps to stop the blaming and the shaming that sometimes is so close to the surface when relationships become strained. The relational perspective opens new ways of understanding the family and yourself in the family. It positions the members of the family not against each other, but as against the things in the family that cause the unhappiness or the problems.


A new way of communication

The relational perspective also facilitates a new way of communicating in the family. It is less threatening to talk about the things in the family that cause the unhappiness than to talk about the things that one member perceives the other as doing wrong. It may also be very powerful to start talking about the things that would make the family a better, stronger and happier one.

When is family therapy used?

Family therapy is important when parents decide to divorce. They have the opportunity to talk about the things that were experienced as hurtful in the past, but they can also start to talk about the new kind of family that they would want to be after the separation. It is important to realise that relationships cannot just cease to exist. A relationship can only be transformed into a different kind of relationship. Therefor the divorcing parents as well as their children will have to construct a new kind of family where previous relationships are altered to accommodate the new reality.


I also use family therapy where a younger family member starts to show negative behaviour, like using drugs or becoming rebellious, etcetera. Children’s difficulties are sometimes best addressed in the context of the family.


Relationships are Unique

Families, like all other relationships, are unique. I am more and more convinced that we do not have and do not have to have a blueprint for all relationships and families. It is therefore beneficial for our relationships if we allow ourselves the freedom to ask where our so-called truths come from. The so-called truth about what a good mother should be like, or a good father, or a good child can and should be deconstructed to understand where they come from, who benefitted from this and did these truths survive over time. We often find ourselves in situations that causes distress because of these so-called truths.

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