Family Therapy

Family therapy is a type of treatment that seeks to improve the way family members interact, relate, communicate, and behave with one another.

What is Family Therapy?

Just as the name implies, family therapy is focused on helping family members identify and address problems that are causing disruption, stress, arguments, and discontent at home—and even elsewhere. A psychotherapist trained in this type of treatment can help dysfunctional families learn to communicate better, find healthier ways of relating to each other, establish more effective parenting strategies, and adjust to big changes, such as moving, divorce or death, and other significant issues.

Family therapy can also be very valuable for educating a family about healthy ways to support a parent, child/sibling, or other member who has a mental health condition, addiction, or disability. Depending on the issues, some families may only need short-term help, while others with more complex dynamics and problems may benefit from a longer course of therapy. Regardless, all family members are encouraged to speak honestly, commit to making positive changes, and actively participate in the process.

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Why Choose Amen Clinics for Family Therapy?

When a family’s problems bring them to therapy, it’s not uncommon for people to place blame for all the stress and drama on one person, clinically referred to as “the identified patient.” This often is one of the kids who is acting out the unspoken family dysfunction. However, the reality is that each family member (and their brain) could be contributing in some way to the issues.

At Amen Clinics, we learned many years ago that there is a simple reason for this. Through our SPECT imaging work, we discovered there are 16 different brain types—each with its own strengths and vulnerabilities. But, what makes one brain type happy can make another type miserable and things one type loves, another might detest. In other words, the different brain types within families can lead to conflicts, behavioral problems, emotional distress, and other difficulties.

What are the Benefits of Family Therapy?

Every family is essentially a system with interconnected individuals. Because of this, if one person in the family is suffering in some way, such as with a mental health problem, or engages in disruptive and unhealthy behavior patterns, then the whole family suffers to some extent. When problems like these go unaddressed or are kept secret, it can make matters worse for everyone.

Each person, including young children, will try to develop coping skills that help them manage their thoughts and emotional reactions to the family dysfunction. Unfortunately, this can lead to even greater problems and discord, or have long-term adverse effects on them, especially those with developing brains.

When a family attends therapy together, each person benefits by learning healthier ways to communicate, relate, and behave with one another as well as by developing better coping skills for facing challenges.

Ready to learn more? Contact a care coordinator today!

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Who Can Benefit from Family Therapy?

This type of therapy can be helpful for many common problems that lead to family dysfunction or distress, including, but not limited to:

  • “Acting out” or behavioral issues in children and teens
  • Adjusting to big changes, such as moving, parental unemployment, the onset of a serious medical problem, or becoming a blended family
  • Changes in the family structure, (i.e. divorce or remarriage)
  • Communication problems
  • Death of a parent, caregiver, or child
  • Discipline practices
  • Family disengagement
  • Ineffective parenting strategies or role modeling
  • Marital/partner discord
  • Mental health conditions in one or more family members
  • Parent-child conflicts
  • Power struggles
  • Serious medical problems
  • Sibling conflicts
  • Traumatic events
  • Unhealthy boundaries


“With A Better Brain Comes A Better Life”

– Daniel G. Amen, M.D.


Brain Types and Family Dysfunction

By looking at the brains of the entire family, it can shed light on the underlying causes of dysfunctional families. To provide a sense of how challenging it can be for some family members to get along, understand, or listen to one another, here is a brief description of the 5 Primary Brain Types (the other 11 are combination types):

  1. Balanced Brains tend to be conscientious, flexible, focused, resilient, emotionally stable, and positive. They dislike risk-taking and others being unreliable, irresponsible, or behaving impulsively.
  2. Spontaneous Brains enjoy spur-of-the-moment activities, are curious, think out-of-the-box, love surprises, and take risks. They also are impulsive, restless, often late, and have difficulty with focus and follow-through.
  3. Persistent Brains like routine, have a strong will, and tend to be very focused. However, they also hold grudges, can be very rigid, judgmental, and critical, and get “stuck” on negative thoughts or behaviors.
  4. Sensitive Brains are very empathic and feel things deeply, but they also tend to be moody, pessimistic, have lots of ANTs (automatic negative thoughts), and may struggle with depression.
  5. Cautious Brains are prepared, motivated, reserved, have busy minds, and are risk-averse. They can also be anxious, temperamental, and have difficulty relaxing.

Knowing each person’s brain type allows the therapist to develop specific strategies for helping family members understand each other better and alter behavior patterns to reduce conflict, improve interpersonal relating, and other needs the family might have.

At Amen Clinics, we have also found that when we perform brain scans on entire families, we often discover that one or more family members has a diagnosable mental health condition that has previously gone undetected. This knowledge helps us create individualized treatment plans to address the specific mental health issues, so that family therapy can be more effective. Without having the information revealed on the brain scans, the family would likely continue to struggle.

Ready to learn more? Contact a care coordinator today!

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What Happens in Family Therapy?

The process of family therapy is similar to other types of talk therapy. The counselor or psychotherapist will work on building trust with the group so that everyone feels comfortable and safe, knowing they are not being judged and that the therapist’s role is to help them improve or resolve the issues that are troubling them. The counseling strategies used by a therapist will depend on a family’s needs.

Commonly, the therapist will ask questions of each person to help discern what the overt and underlying problems are and how the individuals are being impacted differently by them. With knowledge about the family’s goals and the concerning issues that brought them in for help, the psychotherapist will create a targeted treatment plan to guide them through the course of therapy.

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