Family Relationship Health

Every family has its own issues. Family members have their arguments, tough circumstances can cause tension, and some families are just plain crazy. However, there are issues that need to be addressed and may require intervention in order to maintain a healthy family relationship. Some common issues are divorce, physical or mental illness, childhood trauma, addiction, death, or a period of extreme change (e.g. a family member moving out of the house, etc.). The most popular way for a family to work through their relationship health issues is through counseling.

Supportive Counseling

Supportive counseling is a type of therapy that is dedicated to help the client adjust to an ongoing situation. It can be used for a variety of different family health issues, but it is most popular for adjusting to a physical or mental illness diagnosis within the family. Supportive counseling is a type of talk therapy wherein the client builds a relationship with the counselor to help them adjust to the new situation and cope effectively. It is important for there to be an open dialog between the counselor and the client in order for this relationship to form. If a client has been recently diagnosed with a physical illness, he or she may work with the counselor to develop appropriate coping strategies. They will also discuss the various emotions that accompany the diagnosis.

There are certain components that the counselor will work to incorporate into the counseling. The counselor must be empathetic and listen closely to the client and the issues that they are dealing with. The client must be able to build a relationship with the counselor as a person to confide in and reassure them when uncertainty arises. The counselor will also offer encouragement, as well as education, about the situation to help the client better understand the situation. Lastly, the counselor must act as a guide for the client during this period of adjustment and uncertainty.

Cognitive Behavioral Techniques

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most popular types of therapy. Due to its popularity and success, different techniques from CBT have been used in family therapy. CBT focuses on schemas and the techniques that come from it are used to change a person’s schema. Because of the schemas that are created, people develop a distorted perception of reality. The techniques that come from CBT can be used to alter one’s perception back to a more realistic perception of reality.

This type of therapy can be useful for mental illness diagnoses, specifically depression and anxiety disorders, and large family changes, like a divorce. In many cases of divorce, children often feel as if the divorce was caused by something they did. If this perception is not corrected, it could cause them distress and pain for a long time. However, CBT techniques can help children see the reality of the situation and not place the blame on themselves.

Psychodynamic Techniques

Much like CBT, psychodynamic therapy is often used for a variety of different issues and different techniques can be incorporated into family therapy in order to help resolve family problems and increase family relationship health. Psychodynamic therapy, and the techniques associated with it, are aimed at bringing an individual’s unconscious thoughts and emotions into consciousness. The goal is to understand any underlying problems or motivation within a person’s mind. Since it takes place in the unconscious mind, people may not realize that past feelings and memories, often negative ones, are impacting them at the present time.

Some of most popular techniques that are used are free association, therapeutic transference and interpretation. Free association is talking about the first thing that comes to your mind, regardless of what it is, to see if the topic has an underlying meaning for the client. Therapeutic transference is aiming the feelings that a client may have towards a person (often from a childhood memory) towards the therapist in order to resolve some of the conflicts that the client may have because of this memory. Lastly, interpretation is when the therapist reiterates a thought back to the client and points out any implied details that the client may not be aware of. A therapy like this would be useful for traumatic events like abuse as a child or a death in the family. The client may heal more quickly if their family is there as a support system and is able to understand their feelings.

Systemic Approach

The systemic approach is a type of family therapy that works to change and improve the way that family members interact with one another. It strives to work on problems within a family by helping the family empathize, understand and support each other. The systemic approach takes a look at the individual family and attempts to focus on the problems within.

As previously mentioned, the goal is to change the way that a family interacts with one another. This involves the family working to meet each other’s needs, make necessary changes and appreciate each other’s strengths. The goals for this therapy is to understand how the family functions, along with what is working and what is not working. It is important to build on the strengths of the family, set goals to modify and change weaknesses, and create a more open dialog within the family to improve communication.

Another goal for the systemic approach is to recognize that the issues are effecting the whole family, as well as using that fact to improve the situation. For example, this therapy is often used for mental illness diagnoses with a family and addiction. If a family member is struggling with an addiction, it is important for the addict to realize that he or she is effecting the entire family and is likely causing the family stress, pain, distress, etc. While this may sound like a negative thing, it can be used in positive ways. The family can be the greatest support system for the addict while he or she tries to recover and they can learn coping strategies that can be used together.

These are just a few of the countless options to address family relationship health issues. Regardless of the specific family relationship health issue, it is very important to address the issues that cause ongoing pain or stress in order to keep the problem from progressing. A family can be the strongest kind of support system, and remember, no family is perfect.


Collison, D. (2006, August). Supportive counseling. Retrieved from Huntly Centre website:

Family/systemic therapy. (2016). Retrieved from Counselling Directory website:

Friedberg, R. D. (2006). A cognitive-behavioral approach to family therapy. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 36, 159-165. Retrieved from

Psychodynamic therapy. (2016). Retrieved from Counselling Directory website:


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