What Is Family Therapy? Underlying Premises
Family therapists do not necessarily see whole families; they may see individuals, couples, or groups. What makes family therapy a distinct profession is its relational focus. An example may help make this clear. Not too long ago, I (Rambo) was present in a meeting at a public school concerning a young girl who was being bullied by other children. The young girl was developmentally delayed and an easy target for the more narrow-minded of her peers. Their teasing and verbal abuse were making her quite miserable. I was the only family therapist present. To my consternation, conversation among the other professionals centered around what combination of medication, individual therapy, and education in coping skills would help this child be less miserable. I longed for the presence of another family therapist, one who utilized any family therapy approach whatsoever. Differences between models of family therapy are signifi cant and result in widely varying types of intervention. But our similarities are as important as our differences. Any family therapist would have viewed this situation relationally and therefore broadened the discussion to include the harassing peers, the parents, the school administrators, and other elements of the system. Any other family therapist would have joined me in declining to act as if the problem belonged to the child alone.