Communication Skills in Family Therapy - updated
As a family therapist, I believe our families profoundly impact the way we think, feel and behave. The connectedness and reactivity we sometimes have in our family system can make the functioning of family members interdependent. This means that a change in one person’s functioning is predictably followed by reciprocal changes in the functioning of others. Looking at the family in family therapy as an emotional unit, helps us make dynamic and real time changes in individuals as well as the system as a whole.
Many of the families I work with, have trouble communicating effectively. If one member of the family is struggling with a mental health issue or an addiction, it’s common for communication to be further stunted.
Learning how to communicate more clearly and more respectfully can help avoid the bad feelings that go along with fighting and arguing and helps the entire family start to feel better.
Active listening is an essential part of effective communication with others, and all communication needs effective listening. One of the essential exercises we do in the multifamily groups I run in is in active listening. The families that are engaged with this process and who use this skills, I believe, see great progress over a short amount of time.
The biggest changes in families often comes with an improvement in emotional literacy. This is the ability to notice, name, and understand feelings. This small but complicated ability provides critical information about you (and about others), their behaviors and their reactions. Family therapists should be helping improve the emotional literacy of all members of the system, making it safe and comfortable to express, in healthy ways, a wide range of affect.
I statements are the essence of improving communication in families, especially if there is conflict or emotional distance. These may seem like an easy thing to pull off, but it's surprisingly hard for family members to do this without some coaching from a family therapist.
In family systems, the 'I' position is helpful in differentiation from the family and goes a long way towards a healthier sense of self.