Family Therapy

When a family member has an illness, they can quickly become known as what is called the identified patient. This means that whatever else is going on within the family, the sick member often acts out the family's problems. Unfairly, the depressed child gets pointed out and even blamed for the family's troubles. This is dangerous and family therapy is an excellent way to address the entire family's issues.

Who Has to Attend?

Family therapists prefer the entire immediate family to participate in at least the initial family sessions. After a few appointments, problems can be pinpointed, and if there are issues between certain family members, the therapy can take different directions. For example, if a formerly very close sibling bond is being threatened by your child's depression, the therapist might meet with the siblings a few times to help resolve those feelings. If parenting issues are a problem, the counselor might ask to see the parents.


There is no hard and fast rule as to how long family therapy should last. How much family therapy is needed will depend on several factors: the severity of the child's depression, the ages and developmental stages of the children, and the issues within the family. Time and financial resources must be considered, too.

The most ideal situation is for the family sessions to be flexible and meet all of the needs of not only the depressed child but also the other family members.

What Will Happen in Family Therapy?

The first thing a family therapist will do is to get a good, thorough history about your child and the family. He will want to spend some time just getting to know the members and making everyone comfortable. With the family's input, he will help develop some goals for the therapy.

Each family member will be given the opportunity to talk and to be heard. Respect for one another's feelings and opinions will be encouraged.

Periodically, the therapist will ask the family to reassess their goals and change or modify them as necessary. If the therapy is successful, the tension within the family should decrease, empathy among its members will increase, and your child's depression will be reduced.

Family distress is almost always a by-product of a child's depression. The ensuing problems that emerge can either tear a family apart or bring them closer. The most effective treatment for your child will consider each family member's needs and will help improve how the family operates as a unit. While your child's depression is unsettling, it can have a positive impact on your family if you take charge and become proactive.

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