5 Common techniques used in family counseling


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Page last updated: 5/09/2022

In this article, we will understand and learn about the most common techniques used in family counseling and also discover how family counseling works. 

What are the most common techniques of family counseling?

Family counseling techniques consist of a vast and varied range. Some of them are listed as follows:

  • Structural Therapy. 
  • Strategic Therapy. 
  • Systemic Therapy. 
  • Narrative Therapy. 
  • Transgenerational Therapy. 
  • Communication Therapy. 
  • Psychoeducation.
  • Relationship Counseling.

What is family counseling?

Family counseling or therapy is just like any other form of psychotherapy. But the only difference here is that instead of just dealing with an individual on a one-to-one basis the therapist addresses the concerns of the family as a whole unit. This type of counseling involves all the members of the family participating in the multiple sessions carried out to resolve the issues concerning the family.  

It is a branch of psychotherapy that helps in changing and harboring development in the family as well as nurturing growth in intimate relationships between family members and couples. The therapist helps in starting much-needed conversations and discussion amongst the members of the family that helps in resolving issues and grievances. The discussions function as a catalyst in bringing about the necessary changes in their lives. The number of sessions involving the family members involved can differ from case to case. It can range anywhere between 5 to 20 sometimes less or even more. Also, it is not important how many members are there in counseling but what kind of issues and baggage they bring along with them and how each of them affects and influences the rest of the members. 

There are specific goals in family Counseling that help in providing a definite structure and also maintaining its momentum

The goals of Specific Goals of Family Counseling are as follows

  • Developing and improving communication
  • To Bring flexibility in roles, rules, and regulations.
  • Educate and disburse myths 
  • Focus on building and strengthening the foundation of the family
  • Becoming adept at dealing with challenges and problems. 
  • Encourage individuality and uniqueness among the family members
  • Focusing on building and strengthening the couple relationships
  • Developing a healthy and nurturing environment at home

Techniques of Family Counseling

There is a range of counseling techniques used for family therapy including:

Structural Therapy

This therapeutic approach was developed by Salvador Minuchin. Structural therapy is theoretical in nature It has five founding principles which govern the flow of the therapy. The five principles are as follows

  • The therapist should focus on the interactions occurring between people instead of analyzing their psyches. 
  • According to the interactions within the family forming the matrix of identity 
  • Formulating the Family structure based on social interactions
  • Judging the functioning of the family based on the responses and behavior of the family members.
  • The aim and goal of the therapist are to facilitate change and growth among the family members by freeing them from restraining ideas and forced rules and patterns and helping them emerge stronger. 

Strategic Therapy

Strategic therapy is a therapeutic approach that has evolved through time and is developed due to the amalgamation of various psychotherapy practices.. Strategic Therapy consists of five stages. These five stages are as follows:

  • Social stage
  • The problem stage
  • Interactional stage, 
  • The goal-setting stage
  • Task-setting stage.

Each of these stages has its own unique function and purpose and facilitates changes and growth in the family according to their needs and requirements. 

Systemic Therapy

Systemic therapy has its roots in the previously utilized family systems therapy. This therapy was developed after importing various important factors from family systems therapy. But there are also a lot of other theories and therapies that led to the development of family systems therapy. It has been observed that in recent decades this approach has gradually distanced itself away from linear causality and now focuses on approaching problems as they are formed in the social and linguistically influenced reality.

Narrative Therapy

In narrative therapy, people are encouraged to own and accept their individuality and try to utilize their own abilities and skills to resolve an issue. According to the theory of narrative therapy it is the people themselves who generate problems so that they can create their identity from the stories that originate from these problems. Also, every individual possesses the necessary skills to combat these issues on their own; they just need to recognize them. In conclusion, every person is the narrator of their own story and the therapist’s role is to guide them along their life’s journey. 

Transgenerational Therapy

Just as the name implies, transgenerational therapy gives the therapist the opportunity to evaluate and analyze the interaction and history between members of a family across several generations. 

The observations and careful examination of these family dynamics and interactions give an insight into the core problems within the family. This therapy is not just limited to tracing the past history but also focuses on potential problems and struggles that may occur in the future.  Transgenerational therapy is often combined with other therapies in order to gain better clarity about the situation.  

5 Common techniques used in family counseling

Communication Therapy

Lack of communication is a common problem that haunts everyone at least at some point in their life. It is necessary to resolve any communication issues so as to reduce the negative consequences caused due to them. Therefore therapy for communication issues is a very crucial need because it also contributes to the relationship of an individual. It is very evident that lack of communication can have a disastrous impact on a couple’s marital life and therefore it is imperative to resolve those issues at the earliest. Communication issues can arise due to cultural differences or even varied personal experiences. Additionally, issues such as trauma, mental health issues, distrust, jealousy, or even secrecy can contribute to poor communication between the couple. Techniques such as active listening, empathy, and mediated communication aid in improving the communication between the clients.  Psychoeducation

Psych education is providing information and knowledge about mental health conditions to the clients and their families in order to educate them and increase their understanding. Psych education helps in fighting the stigma attached to mental health disorders and helps people become aware and empathetic.   It has been categorized into four broad categories. These categories also help in defining psychoeducation

-transfer of information

-medication and treatment support

-training and support in self-help

-an available a safe place to vent

Relationship Counseling

It is well known that relationships are very delicate and complex. They are not easy to manage and even simple errors can create havoc in relationships. Therefore it is necessary to tread cautiously when dealing with relationships. 

There are many problems that contribute to the deterioration of a healthy relationship. Stress, chronic illness, poor communication and empathy, infidelity, mental health issues, dependency, immaturity, and even mental health issues are just some of these issues.  In relationship counseling issues such as sexual intimacy, emotional distancing, infidelity, financial crisis are just some of the issues that are addressed. But the relationship counseling can only begin if the client wants to resolve the issues and is ready to put in the effort to resolve the issues between them. They can either decide to start together or work out the differences between them in order to move on. 

Following are strategies utilized in each of the family therapy approaches.

  • Family evaluation 

In the Bowenian approach, the therapy session is begun by collecting data and evaluating the emotional responses and patterns of the family members. This helps in uncovering the underlying problem that is affecting the family. 

The tool utilized to achieve this goal is the multigenerational genogram. This genogram depicts the members of the family and also the type of bond they share with each other. 

  • Individuality promoting Questions

In this technique, an individual’s uniqueness and individuality id encouraged. They are urged to stand their ground and have their own perspective, opinions, and feelings about themselves and also the family. 

In this technique the client is asked and encouraged to make “I” statements and express their views on the problem without offending,, disrespecting, or hurting another member’s feelings.

  • Roleplay

Roleplay is a technique where member can enact scenarios or their problems in order to facilitate discussion and attain resolution. The therapist plays the part of the moderator and oversees the process in order to facilitate positive interaction.

  • Empty chair technique

This is a very interesting technique wherein each member of the family is asked to think about their problems and visualize that problem on an empty chair. Then they are asked to talk out their problem that is placed on the chair as if it is a person. This technique helps in addressing repressed thoughts and problems that we run away from instead of dealing with them. 

With the help of technique, we can express our thoughts regarding the problem without feeling guilty or placing the blame on ourselves or others. 

They can feel free to express an emotion that comes to them without feeling guilty or placing the blame on themselves. This is a great way to vent out frustration and buried grievances. 


In this article, we learned bout the various approaches and techniques utilized in family counseling in order to help families and couple resolve their issues and help them a lead happy life. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are five commonly used therapy methods?

There are five commonly used approaches in psychotherapy. They are as follows:

  • Psychoanalytical and psychodynamic approach
  • Behavioral approach 
  • Cognitive approach
  • Humanistic approach
  • An integrative or holistic approach

What is the family mapping technique?

Family mapping is nothing but a structure that enables the therapist and the marital couple seeking therapy with necessary information about their family as well as of issues originating from them. This can be later utilized as a point of reference by the therapist which can then be used as a therapeutic.

What are family intervention strategies?

There are several useful family intervention strategies utilized by the counselors during treatment. The goal of these interventions is to improve the patient’s mental health and resolve any psychological issues occurring in their lives. These interventions encompass all the members of the family and enable them to solve their own problems.

How is family therapy different from individual therapy?

The most evident difference between individual therapy and couples/family therapy is that couples or family therapy involves working with more than one client simultaneously and it involves all the members of the family. The goal of family therapy is to resolve issues occurring in their lives due to the family dynamic they share with members of the family

What are the techniques and benefits of family therapy?

Following are some basic techniques and benefits arising due to family therapy. 

  • It helps in improving communication skills.
  • It provides necessary skills for coping with challenging situations.
  • It provides new insight and understanding
  • Recognizing the problematic zones and dynamics within the family
  • Coming up with effective strategies for handling conflict.
  • Helping in improving and strengthening relationships.


Family therapy techniques – monmouth university. (n.d.). Retrieved January 16, 2022, from https://www.monmouth.edu/graduate/documents/family-therapy-working-with-challenging-family-dynamics-in-effective-manner.pdf/ 

PhD, W. by: A. P., & MD, R. by: K. F. (n.d.). Strategic family therapy: How it works, cost, & what to expect. Choosing Therapy. Retrieved January 16, 2022, from https://www.choosingtherapy.com/strategic-family-therapy/

Types of family therapy. Premier Mind Institute. (2017, January 29). Retrieved January 16, 2022, from https://premiermindinstitute.com/types-family-therapy/