Using Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) and other models, Shift psychologists help provide a sense of safety in couples’ and family sessions, de-escalating conflicts and helping disengaged members to re-engage.
There is no blame within our therapies, only efforts to bring partners and family members closer together, so they can communicate what they really need from the relationship. Often, this takes the form of ‘translating’ behaviours.
Rebuilding Family Connections
For example, a husband might withdraw from his wife, seeing her angry face and hearing, “You’re never around!” We would work to help both partners appreciate what might be the wife’s true meaning, that is, protesting what she feels is the emotional distance between them as if to say, “You’re SO important to me, but your distance feels like you don’t need me.”
Shift psychologists understand that humans use cold detachment for emotional protection (e.g., “You can’t hurt me if I don’t allow myself to care.”) and focus on rebuilding fragile connections with the people we need and care about.
We never lose that need to connect with the people we value, and that is at the heart of the couples and family therapies offered at Shift.
Connection With Others is Critical
Emotional separation triggers panic in mammals, while emotional connections release hormones that stimulate happiness and calm. Infant’s brains activate connection triggers by creating mental images of caregivers to think of when alone and upset. Adult brains continue to do this, but often transfer the power to soothe from their parents to their partners.
While it’s normal for people in close relationships to argue, conflicts become problematic when members turn away, leaving the others feeling alone and unable to find comfort. In fact, the biological need for safe, emotional connections is so great that loneliness can increase blood pressure to the point where it can double the risk of heart attack and stroke in marital partners.
Our therapy work is intended to help partners and families remain engaged. Feeling safe and secure with our loved ones, we can resolve almost any issue together.
The Benefits of Family Therapy
Family therapy is a type of psychological counselling that can help family members improve communication and resolve conflicts. This type of therapy is an effective way to help all family members understand problems, and make positive changes in their lives as individuals and members of the family unit.
When one family member has a problem, it often has an effect on the entire family. Because of a change in one family member’s behaviour influences the structure of the entire family, the focus of treatment is the family system. It also helps families to deal with challenges such as eating disorders, substance abuse, chronic illness, etc.
Family therapy is often short-term, ten to twenty sessions, and specific to a current challenge. It may include all family members or just those able or willing to participate. Your treatment plan will depend on your family’s situation. Family therapy sessions can teach you skills to deepen family connections and get through stressful times, even after you have completed your therapy sessions.
Family therapy can help you improve troubled relationships with your partner, children or other family members. You may address specific issues such as marital or financial problems, a conflict between parents and children, a conflict between siblings, or the impact of substance abuse or a mental illness on the entire family.
Family and Individual Therapy
Your family may pursue therapy along with other types of mental health treatment, especially if one of you has a mental illness or addiction that requires additional therapy or rehabilitation treatment.
For example, family therapy can help family members cope with a relative that has a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia — but the person who has schizophrenia should continue with their individualized treatment plan, which may include medications, one-on-one therapy or other treatment.
In the case of addiction, the supporting family members can begin treatment together while the family member with the addiction issue completes a residential or outpatient treatment. Sometimes family members participate in therapy together even if the person with the addiction refuses to attend individual treatment.
Family therapy is a way of thinking; family therapists are relational therapists, in that they are interested in the interactions between people. A family therapist will meet several members of a family at the same time. This has the advantage of making changes in how family members perceive mutual relationships and the interaction patterns of the family.
Patterns of family behaviour are often repetitive, appearing at home and in the therapy office, allowing the therapist to enter into the family system and begin to make changes to help people interact in ways that heal and repair relationships.
The Benefits of Speaking to a Professional
Depending on circumstances, a therapist may point out to the family patterns that have gone unnoticed or suggest different ways of responding to other family members. These changes in the way of responding may then trigger repercussions encouraging others to also respond more positively, bringing change to the whole system, leading to a more satisfactory systemic state and better functioning in the family as a whole.
Family therapy can be useful in any family situation that causes stress, grief, anger or conflict. It can help you and your family members understand one another better and learn coping skills to bring you closer together.
The goal of family therapy is to return the family as a whole to health, such that each family member is emotionally connected to the family and embraced as a fully functioning member while at the same time is differentiated as an individual, able to pursue and achieve personal goals.