Marriage and Family Therapy
(MFT) is a form of psychotherapy
that addresses the behaviors of all family members and the way these behaviors affect not only individual family members, but also relationships between family members and the family unit as a whole. As such, treatment is usually divided between time spent on individual therapy and time spent on couple therapy, family therapy, or both, if necessary. MFT may also be referred to as couple and family therapy, couple counseling
counseling, or family counseling.
When It's Used
The range of physical and psychological problems treated by MFT include marital and couple conflict, parent
and child conflict, alcohol
and drug abuse
, sexual dysfunction, grief
, distress, eating disorders and weight issues, children’s behavior problems, and issues with eldercare, such as coping with a parent’s or grandparent’s dementia
. MFT practitioners also work with mental-health
issues such as a family member’s depression
, anxiety, or schizophrenia
, and the impact these issues have on the rest of the family.
What to Expect
MFT is normally short-term therapy consisting of an average of 12 solution-focused
sessions. More sessions may be required, however, depending on the nature and severity of the problem(s). In couple or marriage counseling, the therapist will begin by meeting with both partners and then spend some time with each individual. In family therapy, the therapist will also begin by meeting with the entire family and then, if appropriate, meet separately with individual family members. The first session is generally for information gathering, so the therapist can learn about the problem that brought you to therapy, get the thoughts of everyone involved, and observe couple/family dynamics. At the same time, you should be able to get a clear sense of the therapist’s role and competency, the goals
of treatment, and any “rules” to be observed in and out of sessions, such as who should attend which sessions and confidentiality of any information shared between and among partners or family members and the therapist. Over time, you will identify individual family roles and behaviors that contribute to conflicts, identify specific challenges, and explore ways to actively resolve issues.