What is family therapy?
Family therapy is its own distinct discipline of mental health. It was developed in the 1950s when several psychiatrists, working independently discovered that when they worked with schizophrenic patients in the hospital, they would get better. Then, they would send them home and they would deteriorate and be back in the hospital in a few months. The psychiatrists discovered that this pattern would repeat itself over and over. These psychiatrists realized that it wasn't enough to treat just the patient and not work with their environment. This does not mean that their families were to blame for their illness, however, the dynamics in the home often created an exacerbation of their symptoms.
Eventually, these like-minded psychiatrists got together and began to develop the field of Marriage & Family Therapy. This field is predicated on the idea that problems do not occur in a vacuum. Often, in order to bring about lasting symptom relief, it is necessary to change the dynamics in relationships, not just work on the individual.
Do family therapists work with individuals?
Yes. We work with individuals, couples and families. However, when we work with individuals, we often have a broader perspective on our clients' problems. We take their signficant relationships and broader environements into consideration, to make sure that whatever changes are made with our client will be supported in their environment, and thus be more likely to remain in effect.