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Family Therapy

writtenByWritten by: Melissa Dowd (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)
Melissa Dowd (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)

Melissa Dowd (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)

Melissa Dowd received her Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Dominican University of CA and is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. In addition to her work as a clinical therapist, Melissa is passionate about promoting emotional wellness through leading workshops, guest appearances, and across social media platforms.

Read more posts by this author.

December 3, 2020 Read Time - 5 minutes

Please note, PlushCare does not offer family therapy at this time. That said, our licensed therapists can provide therapy for individuals over the age of 18. 

All You Need to Know About Family Therapy

Are you wondering what to expect from family therapy and whether it’s right for you?

Meeting with a family therapist can give you and your family tools to help resolve conflict and address issues on your own in the future.

Let’s talk more about what family therapy is, how it might help, what situations it’s best for, and how much it costs. 

What Is Family Therapy?

Does family therapy really work? What is it? Family therapy is a type of counseling that can help family members resolve conflicts and improve communication.

It’s usually provided by licensed therapists, clinical social workers, or psychologists who may have credentials from the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).

Whichever family members are willing to participate usually attend around ten sessions together (although it may be more or less than ten). Some or all of the family members may also pursue individual therapy, especially when mental illness or addiction are involved. 

Examples of When Family Therapy May Be Beneficial

There are many types of situations that might benefit from family therapy. A few examples include:

  • If one person has a serious mental illness, the entire family might go to therapy to learn how best to support the person with the mental illness.
  • If somebody is struggling with addiction, family therapy can help unravel the ways that person’s addiction has harmed the family and how everybody can move forward.
  • Marital conflicts or conflicts between parents and children can also be worked out in family therapy. 

What Are the 3 Goals of Family Therapy?

Oftentimes therapists will work with families to set goals at the beginning of therapy. The number of goals and what the goals are will vary greatly from family to family, as will the method of goal achievement.

The primary goal of family therapy is to work together to heal any emotional, mental, or psychological problems your family is struggling with.

This is done through solving problems, improving communication, and understanding and handling family situations. 

Read: How to Speak to an Online Psychiatrist?

What Are the 4 Types of Talk Therapy and the Most Common Types of Family Therapy?

The four most common types of family therapy approaches are:

  • Systemic, which focuses on the unconscious meanings and communications behind family members’ behaviors, with a therapist who is distant and neutral. 
  • Structural, which focuses on strengthening and adjusting the family system to ensure the parents are in control and that everybody sets appropriate boundaries, with a therapist who “joins” the family.
  • Strategic, which is more direct and brief than the other types of family therapy, with a therapist who assigns homework to the family. The homework is intended to change the way family members interact by assessing and adjusting how the family makes decisions and communicates, with a therapist who takes a position of power. 
  • Bowenian, which is best suited when individuals don’t want to or can’t involve other family members in the treatment, and is built on two core concepts: differentiation (learning to become less emotionally reactive in family relationships) and triangulation (the natural tendency to vent or distress by talking to a third party).

The Benefits of Family Therapy

Family therapy has many benefits, including:

  • Improved communication
  • A better understanding of family dynamics and patterns as well as healthy boundaries
  • Better empathy
  • Improved problem solving
  • Better anger management skills and reduced conflict

What Techniques Are Used in Family Therapy?

There are many different techniques used in family therapy depending on which approach your therapist uses. A few examples include:

  • Asking the Miracle Question: “Suppose tonight, while you slept, a miracle occurred. When you awake tomorrow, what would be some of the things you would notice that would tell you life had suddenly gotten better?”
  • The Emotions Ball: Write several emotions on a beach ball and toss it around to various family members, asking them to describe a time when they felt the emotion facing them.

The Mirroring Activity, which requires the family members to cooperate with one another, give each other full attention, and communicate with both body language and words.

Read: Mental Health Help

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Purpose of Family Therapy?

The purpose of family therapy is to address specific issues affecting the functioning and health of a family. It can help a family through a major transition, a difficult period, or mental or behavioral health problems.

How Much Does a Family Therapy Session Cost?

On average, a 50-minute family therapy session costs around $100. However, rates may be as low as $75 or as high as $200. Also, some therapists may offer fees on a sliding scale based on your income, and some family therapists may be covered by your health insurance plan. 

Does Medicaid Cover Family Therapy?

The short answer is that it depends on what state you live in. Each state manages its own Medicaid program, and about 38 states have at least some reimbursement or recognition of Family Therapists in their Medicaid programs. Check your Medicaid provider manual to see if your state’s Medicaid program covers family therapy. 

Family Therapy Online

The telehealth industry provides an alternative way to receive family therapy. You can find and work with your family therapist online from the comfort of your home.

PlushCare is now offering online therapy in California for individuals over 18 years old. While we do not offer family therapy at this time, individual therapy can be extremely helpful for those looking to work on personal emotional development with a trusted therapist. 

  • Browse our network of top therapist to find one that matches your needs.

  • Get private and secure emotional support weekly from your dedicated therapist.

  • Experience comprehensive care with unlimited access to your care team and primary care physician.

Talk to an Online Therapist PlushCare-App-Steps

Read More About Family Therapy


Mayo Clinic. Family Therapy. Accessed on July 21, 2020 at,social%20worker%20or%20licensed%20therapist.

Good Therapy. Family Therapy. Accessed on July 21, 2020 at

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Medicaid. Accessed on July 21, 2020 at

National Directory of Family & Marriage Counseling. Family & Marriage Counseling Cost: How Much Will it Cost? Accessed on July 21, 2020 at

Positive Psychology. What Is Family Therapy? + 6 Techniques & Interventions. Accessed on July 22, 2020 at

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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