In the past, in response to crisis, therapists and counsellors have responded and supported individuals, rather than focussing on the needs of the entire family. Family therapy evolved as a response to this. To support families through crisis, they will need good quality counselling and therapy to encourage the family to develop and remain as a family unit.
However, many counsellors may find the task of supporting a family daunting. Interventions are difficult. There is little hard research evidence showing the value of the family approach. There are often too many variables that need to be taken into account.
There are issues that the counsellor has to consider such as – confidentiality, who is the client, how do they assess the family’s level of functioning, etc. Traditional counselling will tend to focus on the individual and how many problems may originate in family functioning.
Salvador Minuchin is one of the best-known early family therapists. He developed a theory known as “Structural Family Therapy”. His theory was radical. It presented the possibility of working with individuals in the family and with structures and spaces between them. Also, Minuchin made no assumptions about developmental blocks, faulty learning or pathology within the family. Symptomatic behaviour was seen as a sign that the family had reached an impasse. By working within the structure and space, the system could make readjustments without anyone being blamed. This was a significant departure from the focus on the individual, but it still retained much of traditional medical style interventions. However, since Minuchin’s work in the 1960s, family therapy has continued to develop. Family structures are changing, but evidence shows that most of us continue to wish to live our lives in committed relationships. Caplan and others have shown that at times of crisis, a good quality intervention at the right time can have a critical impact on future functioning within the family.
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