The Growing Field of Marriage and Family Therapy
Prevention is the best medicine. This is true for both physical and relationship problems. Most people go into a marriage believing that love conquers all, but oftentimes romantic and familial love is simply not enough. Conflicts and issues may arise where the failure to properly communicate can lead to the erosion of relationships despite the persistence of true and abiding love.
Take for example Ed and Mary, who have three sons. The eldest son, Jason, is a happy-go-lucky, irresponsible 18-year-old who wants to have fun at all costs. Jason often clashes with Ed, who finds his son’s ebullience excessive and disruptive. Mary, who is also fun-loving, tolerates Jason’s behavior, which sometimes results in arguments with Ed. The younger children, Dale and Mark, tend to emulate Ed but are also influenced by Jason. The whole family is solid and loving, but the interrelationships can become problematic, especially for the younger children.
In the instance above, there is no real problem – yet. A qualified marriage and family therapist would be able to identify patterns of behavior, causes of conflict and communication strategies that can prevent a better understanding and stronger bond between family members. An experienced therapist may need between 5 to 20 sessions with family members in turn and as a group to come up with a program that would help the family. The primary goals of marriage and family therapy are to improve relationships and promote healthy communication.
The role of therapist is not an easy one. The skill set required to make a good therapist includes the ability to listen contextually, discern subtleties in speech and behavior, direct conversations, recognize and categorize patterns, and analyze what type of therapy would best suit the situation.
Aside from personal attributes, a therapist must also have the academic background to undertake the responsibility of conducting sessions. The various theories behind the counseling techniques would be something they are conversant with and know how to use.
Having a string of letters after one’s name is not enough; they should be the right letters. In Texas, the licensing for marriage and family therapists is comprehensive, so you will want someone who is licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), and possibly also as a Professional Counselor (LPC).