What is Family Therapy?

One of the reasons people have a hard time making and sustaining improvements is because it isn’t just about them.

Entire families can be exhausted and burned out by conflict, psychiatric symptoms, and addictions. If there is any connection left, it can be in tatters, with cycles of withdrawal and even rage. It can be very difficult to shift to more adaptive cycles.

However, when families slow down and show they can care, empathize and encourage, then true healing and connection is possible.

What are the Benefits of Family Therapy?

No one has more power to help a client than their family. Teaching clients how to leverage each other to motivate and encourage dramatically improves overall outcomes.

71% Fare Better

Compared to those going it alone, clients whose families participate in treatment fared better by 71% and costs are reduced.

Reduces Relapse Rate

Communication experienced as hostile or critical predicts relapse of mood, eating, personality and psychotic disorders as well as addictions.

86% More Likely to Receive Treatment

Family therapy (specifically CRA-FT) results in 56-86% of clients with alcohol and drug issues engaging in treatment.

Psych Garden's Approach to Family Therapy

When no one else could, you gained Mike’s trust and respect. When no one else would, you invited me – as Mike’s mother – to be a part of the wellness process. You honored each of us and recognized the separate struggles we were each experiencing; in doing so, you gave each of us hope and the strength necessary to address our challenges.

Client from Boston for Family Therapy

Types of family therapy

There are several models of family therapy, each of which is useful for different issues.
We are experts in three particular kinds.

Family Education
and Support

This approach is based on the Integrated Dual Disorders Treatment Model, and on the longer-standing research on Expressed Emotion. It has several core elements:

  • Gets everyone on the same conceptual page.
  • Considers behaviors as communication and symptoms, rather than indicating some badness in the person.
  • Increases empathy and caring responses, diminishing comments that could be perceived as hostile and critical.

(Community Reinforcement
Approach - Family Therapy)

Concerned family members will learn specific researched skills and be better able to engage, motivate and survive over the long-haul. This gentle but directed approach is different than the typical confrontational intervention and is also different from Al-Anon because it’s more than support and it’s based on the belief that we can change things.

We describe CRA-FT in more detail on our blog post, The Role of Family in Addiction Treatment.


Developed In Finland for the treatment of extreme states like psychosis, this intervention approach resulted in rapid and dramatic stabilization, often without the need for medications.

Although a trained team is required for the evidence-based approach, core elements are adaptable and have influenced our practice: a continuity of care from one team, a tolerance of ambiguity and dialogical practice that aims to increase a sense of autonomy and agency.


While this is a couples therapy, it’s sophisticated way of working with attachment, deescalating and fostering connection is crucial and central for family therapy, too.