What is Family Therapy?

Family Therapy differs from counselling in several ways. The Family Therapist is trained to meet with more than one person or couple at a time. Some work with larger groups - up to 6 people in the room. Sometimes Family Therapy sessions have two facilitators, rather than one.

Family Therapy can involve a whole family or several members at any time, ranging in age from young babies to elderly people. As defined by Wikipedia, Family Therapy is also referred to as Couple and Family Therapy and Family Systems Therapy. It is a branch of therapy that works with families and couples to nurture change and development. It tends to view change in terms of the systems of interaction between family members. It emphasises family relationship as an important factor in psychological health.

All the schools of family therapy have a belief in common: that, regardless of how the problem presents, and regardless of whether the clients consider it an individual or family issue, involving families in solutions is often beneficial. The skills of the family therapist include the ability to influence conversations in a way that catalyses the strengths, wisdom and support of the wider system.

In Family Therapy's early years, many therapists defined the family in a traditional manner including parents and children. As the field has evolved, the concept of the family is more commonly defined in terms of strongly supportive, long term roles and relationships between people who may or may not be related by blood.


One of the major benefits of counselling and Family Therapy is that what you say in the counselling room is confidential. There are some exceptions to this:

  1. When you or someone else is at risk of serious harm

  2. When children are in danger

  3. When you give permission for your information to be shared (for example, with your doctor or lawyer)

Where families and couples are concerned, some counsellors and Family Therapists believe it is unethical to hold secrets and will encourage family members to be open with each other about topics that affect the health of their relationships.

Am I crazy?

Coming to therapy does not mean that you are crazy; just that you have decided to explore new ways of dealing with what life is offering you, or that you know you would benefit from some support in dealing with things. Regardless of the family we grew up in, there is still room for learning new skills such as effective communication, conflict resolution and stress management.

If there are some particularly stressful events happening in your life, or you have experienced loss or trauma, you may feel like you have a tentative grip on your sanity. This is natural and normal and seeking support as soon as possible is a good idea.

How many times do I need to come to counselling?

You may find that one session is all you need for a specific issue. Sometimes ongoing support is required. If you are in crisis, more frequent sessions can be helpful at the beginning, which can be spread out as you find your strength and resilience once more.

You are likely to lose momentum and motivation if you wait too long between appointments. It is better, for example, to have three or four sessions a week apart, then have a break, than to have 3-4 weeks between appointments.

What if I don't want to talk about some topics?

Your counsellor should respect your desire to discuss what is relevant and comfortable to you. Over time, as you learn to trust your counsellor, you will hopefully feel more comfortable discussing topics that may once have been out of bounds.

Suzi's process for meeting with families or groups

  1. Suzi first meets with the "sub groups" of the family - whether that's parents/siblings/adult child and their partner - so that each individual can tell their perspective of the situation. This is for as many individual sessions as the members require to feel ready for group work. Depending on the complexity of the situation, some members may need 2-3 individual sessions to prepare for the group meetings.

  2. Once all members are ready, group sessions can be scheduled. These usually need to be double appointments, to allow all to be heard.

  3. Suzi can see up to 4 family/group members at a time.

  4. Suzi works with age 14 upwards.