Important Terms about Marriage & Family Counselors
Marriage and family counselors are professionals trained to deal with a wide variety of marital and interpersonal problems. If you’re looking for a marriage and family counselor, there’s a very good chance that you’re unfamiliar with some of the concepts and terminology used in this field. Below we’ll define certain key terms you might encounter.
Family Therapy – A branch of psychotherapy that deals with treating the interpersonal problems of an entire family unit. This unit can include a married or unmarried couple, their children, close relatives, and even persons who are not related by blood or marriage. Also called family systems therapy and family counseling.
Therapist – The general term for someone trained in aiding individuals or persons in overcoming physical or mental problems. Family therapists or counselors treat all members of a family unit. They are skilled in analyzing marital issues and interpersonal conflicts that arise within a family. A family therapist will generally have a master’s degree and additional training in fields such as psychology, psychotherapy, or social work.
MFT – Abbreviation for Marriage and Family Therapist. This is a common license for persons who work in the field of marital therapy.
Genogram – Sometimes used in marital counseling, a graph that visually depicts family relationships.
Depression – A mental disorder characterized by low energy, persistent sadness, and loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
Domestic Violence – Abusive behavior that occurs within a family.
Conflict Resolution – The process of resolving interpersonal disagreements.
Dysfunctional Family – A family whose members engage in a pattern of abnormal, damaging behavior with one another.
Interpersonal Psychotherapy – A type of therapy that focuses on improving one’s dealings with other people, rather than internal psychological states.
Most couples have marital issues, and sometimes resolving these issues requires outside counseling from a family therapist or marriage counselor. Marriage counseling is designed to keep families together, avoid divorce, and improve the overall mental health of everyone involved. Family therapy can even bring children into sessions to help manage their care as well.
Family therapists didn't start treating relationship psychology issues until around the 1950s. Before this time, psychologists and psychiatrists dealt mostly with individual therapy while friends, family, and church leaders gave advice regarding marital issues. Marriage therapy and counseling now helps couples realize that each individual has their own unique personality and helps them work out the conflicting emotions that arise from these personalities clashing. Therapists also aid spouses to understand and cope while their significant other goes through mental issues, like depression or anger. They can help work through the anxiety that may arise from past physical or emotional abuse from a spouse or parent and give advice to all individuals involved in a custody battle.
Before choosing a specialist, look at their credentials and experience first. The right therapist should be licensed in their field as well as have expert training in the particular subject you are wishing to discuss. You may wish to see if the person you're looking into has ever been sued for malpractice, which is more common with psychiatrists that psychologists since the latter cannot prescribe medication. If children need to be involved in the counseling process, look for individuals with previous experience with the age group your child falls into.