5 Key Terms Every Family Therapist Should Know

Important Terms for Family Counselors

  • Parenting Issues
  • Lifestyle Balance
  • Relationship Problems
  • Stress Management
  • Negative Reinforcement

There are five key terms every family therapist should know in order to better serve his or her clients. Those who wish to pursue a career as a family therapist should familiarize themselves with the following phrases and know when to apply them to any given situation. The BLS further describes the role of family therapist.

Parenting Issues

“Parenting issues” is a phrase that refers to how parents raise and nurture their children. Parents may seek help from a family therapist to discuss different opinions when it comes to how they wish to raise their kids. For instance, one parent feels that the other coddles their kids too much. This can cause conflict and resentment within a family. Or, one parent may feel that the other needs to be more strict with their children. A thoughtful family therapist has the ability to work with parents with the goal of helping them sort out issues that will ultimately benefit the whole family.

Lifestyle Balance

Family therapists often use the term “lifestyle balance.” In order to achieve this, one must devote equal time addressing his or her mental, social, physical, and emotional needs. If someone spends too much time on any given area, he or she may suffer an imbalance. For example, if a parent spends every waking moment at a local gym, the lack of time spent with her family may affect her relationship with her husband and children. A family therapist can help educate about the importance of balance in all aspects of a client’s life.

Relationship Problems

Relationship problems can be emotional, sexual, or psychological. In some cases, a family therapist is consulted to work with the entire family at one time and/or each individual member of a family. Relationship problems can occur among siblings, parents and their children, or between a wife and husband. A family therapist must analyze these problems in order to find their source and provide family members with successful techniques for solving the issues. Furthermore, if problems are not properly addressed by a family therapist, relationship issues may span across generations.

Stress Management

“Stress management” refers to one’s ability to cope with life’s daily stresses in a healthy way. The phrase is one of the most often-used terms by family therapists, especially given the increasing hustle-and-bustle world in which we live. A family therapist may need to look at how family members handle different stressors, and an entire family may seek assistance due to the way a sibling, child, or parent deals with stress. A family member may verbally abuse others when they are feeling overwhelmed, for instance. Another family member may use drugs or alcohol to cope. Poor stress management skills, if left unchecked, can cause significant consequences for the entire family.

Negative Reinforcement

Negative reinforcement happens when a negative response grows when something is removed from a situation. Therefore, the behavior continues. For instance, a family therapist may help worried parents who are struggling to handle a child that throws a tantrum when it is time to get on the school bus in the morning. The child acts out, and so his parents give in and take him to school themselves. So, the child has learned that if he throws a tantrum, he gets his way, and he doesn’t need to take the bus after all. The parents’ poor response and giving in to the negative behavior is reinforcing that behavior. A family therapist can help identify these triggers and work with families to develop positive reinforcement techniques instead.

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These are just a few phrases that should serve as the beginning of an ever-growing, constantly changing list. They happen to be five key terms every family therapist should know in order to understand, tackle, and resolve some of the most critical issues faced by today’s families.