Family therapy focuses on the development, implementation and maintenance of positive and interpersonal interactions in relationships. This new process helps to reduce distress, improves communication, increases trust, pleasure and positive exchanges in daily life with our partners, family members and, potentially, all relationships. A family is a system; a system of parts, or people within it, including the couple relationship. It’s important to shift one’s view of problems in relationships as opportunities for developing ourselves. Family and systemic therapy helps develop warm, yet strong communication skills and coping tools for life’s challenges and disappointments. It also helps to increase empathy and the ability to honor one’s own and others’ boundaries. This sets the stage to create a warm and loving, productive and constructive home environment and relationships in the family unit.
As a specialist working with sexual health and the health of couple and family relationships, my aim is to collaborate with clients in developing themselves and personal integrity; reducing their identified distress in the system of the relationship. This helps increase pleasure, playfulness, passion, productivity, empathy, curiosity, confidence, competence, enjoyment and, therefore, positive functionality vs. dysfunctionality. These goals include learning and developing effective communication skills, regulating emotions, and intentionally doing things differently for the sake of the relationship.
As a systemic therapist, I collaborate with clients and assist the system of their relationships, that is, couples and families (including sexuality), to help them achieve the goals they identify, including adjusting expectations more realistically. In answer to the question, “Why do couples go to family therapy?” Couples are a family. Couples may also belong to a family system that extends far beyond just the two of them, thus allowing for the collaboration and inclusion of their larger family system in counseling sessions. In terms of families and sexual health, whether families are blended families or not, a strong and healthy relationship between a father and daughter plays a fundamental role in helping young women become happy and successful in their lives. The closer fathers and daughters are in terms of openness, support and reliability, the more likely it is that daughters will experience satisfying relationships, careers, income and education. Allowing daughters to talk openly with their fathers, as well as their mothers, about anything including the topic of sexuality and sexual health, is important to positive development.
Perhaps it should go without saying, but the relationships that parents foster between themselves and their children impacts their development profoundly and for life. M.E. Lamb wrote, “Children with involved fathers have been found to have higher cognitive and developmental functioning, greater empathy, and stronger internal locus of control, and less rigid sex stereotypes.” Children are incredibly curious and fascinated by play, their body parts and what feels good. How sex and sexual gratification is addressed in early childhood can make a critical difference in how likely adolescents are to discuss their bodies, sex, and their sexuality with trusted adults. If parents are shy in talking about sex, or show discomfort, shame or embarrassment about sexual or genital gratification, there is a significantly higher chance their children will poorly communicate about sexual health topics. These are lost opportunities for learning. Prior to age five, the presence of involved fathers for boys helps increase boys’ and young mens’ levels of empathy for others. Raising boys, adolescents and young men to understand clear boundaries of consent and empathy for others are fundamental skills in making life-long successful connections in both romantic couple and familial relationships.
Fairness in the Home & Parental Relationships
Mothers traditionally carry the bulk of the emotional and mental load in the raising of children. This leads to role overload. Male partners and fathers can help the couple’s relationship by demonstrating the willingness to establish a fair division of labor in the home. This includes contributing to caretaking of the children and responsibilities inside and outside the home, giving mothers much-needed breaks. In a more equal or egalitarian family system, she has more energy and is more likely to develop sexual desire for her partner. In addition, if mothers can place themselves more in the background during female adolescence, and fathers more in the foreground, this creates a reduced level of anxiety for the children. This also creates an empowered relationship for the couple; the father becomes more sexually attractive to his partner/spouse while creating a more constructive and functional family process. In fact, if a couple can achieve a well-working system in this way, the couple’s relationship, including the sexual aspect of it, improves dramatically.
The stronger the relationship of the couple as parents, and the lower the levels of anxiety for their children, children are freer to play without worrying about their parents and their unresolved conflicts. It is crucial for parents to develop their own ability to manage and resolve their own conflicts quickly, utilizing empathy, emotion regulation and effective communication. These are a few of the skills that set a firm foundation for children. Children need optimal modeling in this way to establish their own sense of confidence, competence, academic goals, as well as the freedom to explore and be sexually curious (Tolman, 2002).
Well, to put it simply, problems in couple and family relationships don’t just go away. Problems are the opportunities to get and use the needed tools to build the life you, as the client, want.
If you’re interested in learning more about how family and systemic therapy can help your family system, reach out today!