How Family Therapy Works
Family therapists can help a family system function better when its members are under stress such as that caused by having OCD in the family. Typically in family therapy, the entire family shows up in the therapist's office, and the interactions of the family are observed and guided by the therapist who acts as an outsider to moderate the family process. A skilled therapist must first assess how a given family functions. He must assess who is playing what roles inside the family unit. This assessment is perhaps the most important task for the therapist. Families typically have a leader (usually Mom or Dad, but it can sometimes be a powerful child) who will try to organize and lead the process.
Brothers and sisters of a child with OCD are often neglected by “default.” To avoid this parenting pitfall, do your best to spend quality time with your other children, too. They should not be expected to put their lives on hold until after the sibling with OCD “gets better.” Just as you offer your child with OCD rewards for doing the hard work of OCD treatment, give encouragement and rewards to your other children, too.
The power arrangements of families are sometimes hidden from the view of all family members since these roles have been unconsciously assumed over time as the family power dynamics have taken form. Eventually the therapist must help the family redistribute the power away from that individual who is leading the family, and allow each family member to feel safe enough to discuss their issues within the family before the entire group. His primary means to do this is by providing a safe environment in family therapy sessions where all family members can express their feelings and needs. Then it's the job of the therapist to help family members acquire new communications skills so that they can employ them at home.