What Does A Marriage And Family Therapist Do?
Marriage and family therapists or MFTs are mental health professionals who diagnose and treat clients who are suffering from mental disorders, addictions and substance abuse in the context of family systems. That means they don’t only treat their clients but also try to help fix the broken relationships their clients have with their families and loved ones. The core idea behind marriage and family therapy—which is also supported by studies and research—is that treatments for psychological dysfunctions and mental issues are more effective when undertaken within the context of family systems. These professionals are trained to help clients manage and treat emotional and mental disorders and the issues they face with their spouses or partners and/or with their families.
When marriage and family therapists first see their clients, they often conduct preliminary interviews and ask them questions to ascertain what their problem is. They also record the client’s answers as well as their own observations about the client’s behavior. They may also assess the client further by letting them take personality tests and psychological tests. Based on their records, observations of their client’s behavior and their knowledge of the different types of disorders that afflict patients, marriage and family therapists will then decide on the best course of action to take to treat the client.
The therapeutic approaches taken by marriage and family therapists will inevitably involve the family. For example, if depression and distress is threatening a marriage, couples therapy may be chosen as a mode of treatment. They may also recommend family therapy among families who may already be emotionally and psychology burdened with the stress of caring for children who are battling a debilitating and chronic illness. Multifamily group therapy may also be employed with some clients. Approaches that draw on family systems are typically used for individuals suffering from depression, alcoholism, marital discord and child problems. Like other counselors, psychotherapy may also be employed. Cognitive behavioral therapy, an approach which enables clients to process their harmful feelings and thoughts and replace them with positive ones geared towards enhancing their productivity and improving their welfare, is also used by MFTs.
Marriage and family therapists should possess excellent interpersonal skills so they can encourage their clients to share their experiences and let go of their emotional baggage. In cases where the clients have to deal with the blow of life-changing events like divorce or losing a job, the job of MFTs is to allow clients to process their feelings and be able to adjust to the sudden event. Through the various treatment methods that they will subject their clients to, MFTs then empower them to come up with coping strategies that will allow them to weather the storms in their lives.
Results to given treatment modes won’t come overnight. MFTs may have to conduct a number of sessions with their clients before they are able to see any changes in behavior that will indicate that the treatment mode chosen is effective. They may also shift to another form of therapy if they see that their original treatment plan is not working. Thus, this is a profession that requires a great deal of patience.
Marriage and family therapists also serve as the liaison between their clients and other support groups in the community. Thus, if they feel that their clients will benefit from being part of a support group or will be helped from obtaining a service offered by government agencies or private organizations then the MFTs will make the necessary referrals.
Couples experiencing problems in their marriage usually turn to marriage counselors for help. These professionals work to help couples in getting communication channels open again so that the real issues behind the marital discord can be identified. When a husband and wife go to the marriage counselor for therapy, they have acknowledged to themselves that they are having issues in their relationship and can’t anymore resolve their conflict themselves. In this situation, marriage counselors strive to get them to talk again so that they can decipher what led to the problems in the first place.
Marriage counselors are trained in enabling couples to air out their concerns in a neutral environment. They facilitate the discussion in such a manner that each person is given a fair chance at having their say on what is troubling the relationship from their own standpoints. They see to it that one party does not bully the other in the hope that they can actually listen and understand each other.
Marriage counselors are very skillful at helping both parties cope with the emotions that are revealed in each counseling session. For instance, trust is often an issue that couples struggling in their marriage are often faced with, particularly if the husband or wife has been unfaithful. They know the methods that can be employed to help each party vent out their frustration and anger in a productive and non-violent manner.
In a typical counseling session, marriage counselors usually start out by asking couples the reason for this visit. This may seem like a pretty basic question but for couples who have been experiencing serious problems in their relationship for a long time before seeking help, answering it can take a lot of effort to actually pinpoint why they have sought counseling. This also gets them to thinking about the root cause of the problems that are plaguing their relationship. Marriage counselors will also ask about other personal details as the session progresses.
Marriage counselors normally don’t tell clients whether they should get a divorce or not. Rather, they listen, identify where the issue lies and then gives suggestions on what the couples can do to still get the marriage to work. For example, the marriage counselor realizes that the root cause of a couple’s problems is the fact that their ideas about money differ—the husband wants to save while the wife wants to spend. He may suggest that both clarify their views about money with each other and fix their finances in such a manner that money is allocated for the household expenses, a joint account established for savings and an allowance for each of them to do with as they wish.
In some cases, the marriage counselor may simply remind couples that their problem stems from the lack of time spent together because of the demands brought about by work and raising children. At other times, they may tell couples that the issues come from the insensitivity and inconsideration experienced by both parties from each other.
There are also times when the relationship has reached a point when one spouse feels that it’s hopeless to save the marriage. In this case, marriage counselors provide what is known as discernment counseling wherein they help the spouse who wants to leave the marriage decide if doing so would be the correct decision while at the same time empowering the ones who want to cling to it to not worsen an already fragile situation. In this type of counseling, couples are given the chance to look at what led to their marriage issues and the strategies they did to try to still make it work. At the end of the counseling sessions, the couples are normally given the choice if they still want to remain married, get a divorce or try to reconcile through the help of therapy.
Marriage counselors don’t diagnose medical and mental problems that have caused the marriage to break down. They can usually identify what the underlying problem is. For example, they see if one spouse is struggling from substance abuse like alcoholism or the use of drugs or if depression is the reason why the couple is struggling in their relationship. In this case, they recommend that the partner with the mental problem see a psychiatrist or get admitted to a rehabilitation facility so that treatment can be initiated. When this is done, therapy may still continue with the couple so that they can continue to try to make the marriage work despite the difficulties.
Marriage counselors don’t necessarily have to do only couples therapy sessions. They can also provide group therapy sessions which help spouses realize that they are not the only ones undergoing bumps in their relationship. For some couples, group therapy is all they need to get their marriage back on track. For others, group therapy may spur them to seek couples therapy so they can address the serious issues in their relationship in a more private setting.