Therapy, in general, provides ways to express feelings, understand patterns of thinking and relating, gain perspective on past events and current relationships, discover strengths and resources, set goals, clarify dreams, and move forward in growth, healing, and change for the better.
Marriage and family therapy, more specifically, is a systemic approach that looks at problems and difficulties with an eye toward relationships. Marriage and family therapists consider the context of a person’s life-their life story, their culture, their family, and other important relationships. In marriage and family therapy, the unit of treatment isn’t the individual person, even if only a single person is in the therapy room; it is the set of relationships in which each client is embedded.
Using the systemic approach, we view problems as existing not within individuals, but within these relationships. We also consider social and cultural factors that help us understand the people we serve.
Despite its name, marriage and family therapy can be applied to individuals. But whether the client is one person, a couple, or a family, the therapy tends to be brief and strength-focused. Marriage and family therapists help people to develop specific and attainable therapeutic goals and then identify resources, solutions, and ways to grow that work for their particular situation.
The federal government has designated marriage and family therapy as a core mental health profession along with psychiatry, psychology, social work, and psychiatric nursing.