Robert Winer, M.D.

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Family Therapy

The first principle of family therapy is that everyone should be on equal footing and everyone’s ideas should be taken seriously. Sometimes parents see family therapy as a means for the therapist to help them manage their child, who is presented as the focus of the treatment. The child then sees the therapist as another adult in league with the parents to control the child’s behaviors. Enterprises of this sort are almost always unsuccessful.

But if the parents can genuinely view the treatment as a chance for all the family members to talk openly with one another, and to listen to each other, the experience can be eye-opening and constructive for all concerned. It’s usually best if all the people residing under the shared roof can come to the sessions, and sometimes it makes sense to include older children who live outside the home. When everyone takes part, there’s less scapegoating.
Over the years I’ve found it remarkable how open children can be in family sessions; parents may hear their children speak frankly with them about highly charged matters for the first time. I’ve heard children as young as three or four express themselves in ways that shed light for everybody. Some dramatically times in just a few sessions of this sort the family’s feeling about itself changes dramatically.