People are often surprised when I tell them I can usually schedule an appointment within a day or two. Part of the reason this is possible is because of the nature of my practice of Brief Marriage and Family Therapy. Another expression used to describe this approach is “solution-focused” therapy or strategic, goal-directed therapy.
Therapy begins by focusing upon defining the problem as it functions within the family system and examining what a solution to the problem would look like. Beginning with the goal in mind, I will often make a proposal for how we might be able to get there during the first session.* Stated simply, we know we have finished therapy when the goal is achieved, usually within less than ten sessions.
Marriage and Family Therapy is optimistic about marriages and families. The reason we believe that marriage and family therapy should be brief is because a core belief is that families mostly get along fairly well most of the time, even though all families struggle with problems. From the budgeting of time, money and other resources to making simple choices such as what to have for breakfast and prioritizing to-do lists, the very fabric of marriage and family life is woven with choices and decisions.
But, every once-in-a-while, families get stuck, marriages go into crisis and relationships become difficult and even unmanageable. The role of the marriage and family therapist is not necessarily to re-write the family script by keeping them locked into a therapeutic contract for extended periods of time. The key is to focus on the present challenge, find out how it functions in the marriage and family and help everyone involved devise a strategy for change that can help the family move on.
Because we are solution-focused we don’t normally spend a great of time working through childhood issues, trying to determine who is right or wrong, good or bad, or at fault. Nor do we typically spend a great deal of time reviewing family histories.
As fascinating and informative as these approaches to marriage and family therapy can be, this is not to say that these things are not important. Furthermore, there are times when it is important to give more attention to these aspects of family life because of the bearing they have upon the present circumstances of the family. This is especially true when couples and their children are intensely involved in conflict and challenge within their families of origin and their relationships with other relatives.
Stated very simply, individuals, couples and families come to Marriage and Family Therapists because they want to relate to each other better; but, something is in the way of helping them achieve their goal. Often they feel stuck or stagnant. At other times someone is caught up in a behavior or perception that is having a negative impact on others, threatening the stability of the relationships involved.
My goal as a brief, solution-focused, strategic Marriage and Family Therapist is to help them solve the problem and to get on with life.
So, to answer the original question, the reason I can schedule clients with fairly short notice has something to do with the fact that my practice is all about helping families solve their problems and then getting out of the way.
For more information why not set up a first appointment and we can discuss how this approach may help you address some areas in which you wish to move forward but….. The first appointment is always free.
Stephen has been a Clinical Member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy since 1991 and he is Licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist in the State of Michigan.