Pediatric and family therapy: Choosing the right type of counseling

Pediatric and family therapy is a type of counseling which analyzes psychological problems and puts together treatment plans in terms of how family members interact with each other. Every family is an integrated, connected unit influenced by the way in which each family member behaves as an individual, as well as the way the unit behaves as a whole. 

During a pediatric and family therapy session, the therapist doesn’t focus on the issues of a single patient individually. Instead, they consider their issues in terms of relationship patterns and communication habits between other family members. Rather than blaming an individual member of the family for causing or maintaining the problem, the therapist helps the family develop new ways of interacting with each other to alleviate the issue.

What is family therapy exactly? >>

Different types of pediatric and family therapy

There are several different types of pediatric and family therapy sessions, some of which are better suited to specific issues and family setups. Here’s an overview of the most common forms of family therapy, to help you determine which is the best to support you while you and your family overcome your problems.

Family-based behavioral treatment 

Family-based behavioral treatment works by parents setting a positive example and changing their negative behavior patterns. Children have the chance to see the benefits of the changes and become eager to make the same changes themselves.

One of the most crucial elements of this type of counseling for parents is the ability to develop child management and problem-solving skills. With this knowledge, parents are able to persuade their children to make healthy changes for the better of the family.

Family-based behavioral treatment is very effective for treating eating disorders. Obese or overweight children and anorexic adolescents have all responded well to this type of family therapy.

Parent-only family-based behavioral treatment

Parents are frequently an essential part of family therapy, especially in terms of pediatric counseling. Because of this, it can sometimes be more beneficial for children if only the parents are involved in family therapy.

When young children struggle with obesity and overweight issues, parent-only family-based behavioral treatment works particularly well. During this approach, parents can develop the skills needed to practice modeling, implementing consequences, identifying rewards and growing more mindful about the way in which they reinforce their children’s behavior. 

Parent-only family counseling is especially effective when it forms part of a dietary or lifestyle program for obese or overweight children. However, this type of therapy doesn’t work well for adolescents and isn’t recommended for older children.

Structural family therapy

Structural family therapy (SFT) is one of the most popular types of family counseling. This form focuses on looking at the problems the family has as a whole, instead of emphasizing each individual’s issues. After determining the family’s problems, therapy continues with group sessions.

During the following sessions, the therapist uncovers habitual patterns, behaviors and routines which can have a negative impact on family dynamics. They then try to establish healthier routines within the family structure, creating a more loving, stable and dynamic home life for everyone.

Structural family therapy is most commonly recommended to families which have gone through significant trauma, families at risk, blended families and single-parent families. Although any type of family can seek SFT, it’s most effective for families on the brink.

Read more about structural family therapy here >>

Functional family therapy

Functional Family Therapy (FFT) was developed to help parents with their children’s behavioral issues and is successful at treating adolescents with substance abuse.

The aim of this type of family counseling is to encourage teenagers and family members to lower negativity levels at home. This is done by each individual member of the family developing the skills needed to improve communication, conflict management and (in the case of parents) effective parenting.

Multidimensional family therapy

Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT) addresses each individual family member, the family as a whole and the environmental factors which may influence behavioral issues in children and adolescents. This form of counseling is based upon the notion that behavior problems in teenagers are caused by many different factors and that effective treatment needs to be respectful and compassionate.

Through MDFT, children and adolescents develop skills to help them cope with day-to-day challenges, solve problems and make decisions. At the same time, the family unit also learns techniques to enhance family functioning and build a better family life.

Multidimensional family therapy is especially effective at treating adolescents suffering from substance abuse. 

Multisystemic therapy 

Multisystemic therapy (MST) is a type of evidence-based and family-focused counseling specifically created for children and adolescents with major problems with substance abuse, delinquency and antisocial behavior.

During this form of counseling, the therapist looks at the cause of the negative behavior in terms of a broader context, taking many different factors into consideration which may be influential. These include various social-ecological factors, including family, individual, school, peer and community influences.

MST is a successful form of therapy for parents who are unable to control their children’s behavior and families which need to develop and improve their dynamics. 

Family constellation therapy

Family constellation therapy is a slightly different form of therapy. This type of counseling approach was created to reveal the hidden dynamics within a family unit. It’s also used as a means of addressing any potential stressors which could negatively impact family relationships and heal them before they get out of hand.

This type of therapy is helpful for family members who struggle to view things from others’ points of view. It can also be beneficial for people who’ve previously struggled with the more traditional types of pediatric and family therapy.

Unlike most other types of family therapy, family constellation therapy takes place during a workshop made up of non-related individuals. The individuals form the family and the person seeking resolution watches, witnessing the way the individuals react to each other. By removing themselves from the issue and seeing the relationships as an outsider, they gain a more in-depth understanding and are better equipped to solve their problems. 

Online family counseling

If there are already problems in the relationships you have with your family, the simple act of arranging a therapy session might feel like an impossible challenge you’ll never overcome. 

Family members in different stages of their life have different priorities and schedules which may make everyone meeting at a family therapist’s office at the same time out of the question. However, with online family counseling, family members can be in different locations while still communicating with each other and following the guidance of the therapist.

Online family counseling makes booking appointments more simple and flexible for the whole family. No one needs to rearrange their schedule and go out of their way to attend a session. It can all be done at a convenient time from home or anywhere with an internet connection. 

Having access to modern conferencing and video calling software means you and your family can commit to family therapy sessions without having to give up other important things in your life. You can even extend the offer to family members who are more physically distant, allowing the people who are geographically far from your family feel emotionally closer.

Online family counseling is also an effective solution for people who suffer from anxiety or a borderline personality disorder. People with these kinds of mental health issues often find it difficult to leave their home or discuss personal issues with others. This makes the act of going to in-personal therapy even more challenging and could raise stress levels for other family members.

If your child is particularly anxious, being able to take part in family counseling sessions from the comfort of their home or another safe space can make the transition much smoother and easier.

These are just some of the benefits of online family therapy. Here you’ll find even more advantages of taking part in counseling sessions over the internet to improve your family dynamics and the relationships you have with those around you.

Preparing for family therapy online

If you’ve never taken part in family therapy online before, there are a couple of things you should know to help you prepare for your first session.

Online family therapy can be done through your smartphone, tablet or computer — any device with a reliable internet connection, camera and mic. At Cyti Psychological, we use a HIPAA-compliant version of Zoom which is a completely safe and secure online platform you’re likely familiar with if you’ve worked from home over the past months.

You need to be selective about the location you choose for your family therapy online session. Pick somewhere private and quiet that’s completely free from distraction, interruptions and background noise. 

Before your session begins, ensure that your smartphone, tablet or computer is connected to the internet and your connection is stable and strong. Test your camera and mic before your session starts, making sure to check they’re both turned on. 

Set your Zoom window to full screen and make a conscious effort to be present for your online family therapy session, just as if you were in a therapist’s office. Turn off your device notifications and focus.

Taking the next step

Pediatric and family therapy isn’t a quick fix or an easy answer to your problems. On the contrary — it’s a long and complex process. But it can improve a child’s behavior, reduce harmful symptoms and help you and your family live a happier, better life.

It doesn’t matter whether your family is constantly arguing or you rarely speak to each other at all, acknowledging there are issues and seeking help to resolve them is the first step on your journey to a healthy family life. Unlike other types of therapy which focus on the individual and their problems alone, pediatric and family therapy look at the overall picture and help you understand how the things each family member says and does affects your family unit as a whole.

If you’ve tried to resolve your differences and fix your problems with no success, it may be time to seek family counseling. Inviting a third unbiased party to help you dig deep and uncover the roots of your problems while providing you with helpful solutions could be just what you need to get back on track.

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. If you are in a crisis or any other person may be in danger,  these resources can provide you with immediate help:
Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 988
24 Hour Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1.800.273.8255
Crisis Text Line Text TALK to 741741