While it is logical to think that all Marriage and Family Therapy involves marriages and families it is most common that we work with individuals, one-on-one. What sets us apart from more conventional therapeutic approaches is the underlying assumption that people are part of relational systems. Consequentially, challenges and problems are not seen as those of the individual but, rather, of the individual within, for example, a marriage, a family, a church or organization, or the workplace. The fact is that no person is an island functioning independently from the systems that surround him or her.
The common approach is often to treat the individual as an individual and not fully assess the family systems within which an individual’s challenges occur. Hence medications are prescribed and treatments initiated without any real evaluation of how the problem surfaced, how it functions in the family system and what the implications will be if the person improves. What is needed is a comprehensive plan that considers the relational dynamics. It just makes sense to consider mental health issues in the context within which they occur as a means for attending to the needs of the individual and helping them develop strategies for navigating the cross currents of relationships.
We know that behavioral change for the individual will have implications to the functioning of the marriage, the family and other systems. The key is to assess change from a three-dimensional perspective. Working with other mental health, educational or health care professionals the marriage and family therapist is ideally trained and experienced to help in such areas such as:
- Anxiety and Panic Disorders
- Hoarding and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders
- Anger management
- Eating Disorders
- Grief, Loss and Death and Dying