A-Z List


Family Therapy

Problem Areas for Clients

Problems in the family may arise over balance of power, limits, boundaries, family roles, triangularity, and communication. One member of the family may dominate over another causing resentment. For example a husband may feel he has control over family concerns and may not ask for his wife's input. This can lead to an unequal balance of power which gives one family member a higher status than others. Limits and boundaries can pose a problem several ways. A parent may set boundaries and fail to follow through with consequences for breaking the boundaries. This lack of consistency in enforcing the boundaries leads to confusion about expectations. Triangularity is when a problem arises between two people and instead of talking to each other about the problem, they involve another person. This may be by complaining to the other peson or by actually involving the other person in the fight. Family members should learn to discuss their problems with each other.

Music therapy goals for targeting these problem areas

The main goals in marital and family therapy are exposing patterns of communication and group functioning. The patterns must first be discovered so they can be discussed and treated if needed. Family therapy and marital therapy attempt to repair communication within the family by increasing listening among family members. The family may communicate without success or they may not communicate at all. The therapist aims to restructure the dysfunctional relationships found within the family. Restoring relationships involves the goal of establishing boundaries and limits. The therapist encourages the parents to define their expectations of the children and enforce consequences if those expectations are not met. Sometimes the child may have taken on the role of the adult, in which case the goal then becomes getting the adult to take responsibility.

Music Therapy methods used for treatment

Music is very useful in both family and marital therapy since music is a medium for communication. Communication is one of the underlying problems in almost all dysfunctional groups. Music is also particularly useful because it uses visual, auditory, and kinesthetic cues all at the same time. By using all three cues together the client is more likely to remember and use the new behaviors. Family therapy brings the entire family into the treatment setting for therapy so they can experience the same thing together. When making music together spouses who did nothing but fight with each other are forced to work together. The therapist should make sure to ask questions to get the most complete background picture as possible. She should ask questions relating to who does what chores and who takes on what roles. Once the therapist understands the family background she can begin to help the family. The therapist should help guide the family as they try to build on weak boundaries and relax stringent boundaries. One problem common in family therapy is the lack of interest by one or more members of the family. Instruments give the reluctant child something to be interested in and curious about.

One of the first objectives of the therapist is to understand the family dynamics that may have led to the dysfunction. Watching the family while they are making music together gives the therapist an inside look at who takes on what role and how the family works together. The therapist can offer a selection of instruments and then give general instructions for a task. The task may be to start playing and stop playing their instruments simultaneously. The therapist can then watch who takes charge, how the family communicates to accomplish the goal, and if the parents or children use criticism a lot. Another activity to use to assess each family member's personality is to watch as they try to all play rhythms together. One member may play exactly on the beat, one may play off beat, and another may make up their own rhythms. An activity to develop listening skills is musical echoing. Family members must listen to the other person and respond back by playing the same tune. This activity gives the family a chance to respond in a validating and non-threatening way. It is especially useful for children who may not be listened to or who are not validated and acknowledged at home. Duets also give a chance to improve communication skills. The two members must work together and communicate their ideas to each other to make the duet a success. In family therapy it is also important to realize that each family member can be an individual and still be a contributing part of the family. Group improvisation gives the family members a chance to experience group participation and be an individual at the same time. They can practice new ways to play their instruments while still listening to their family members to stay together. Performing a solo gives that individual a chance to perform for the family unit and be recognized individually. It is a chance for the family to acknowledge, accept, and appreciate the other person for sharing. Establishing boundaries and limits is another problem area. The therapist can give the parents instructions to choose a song to play, decide who should play what instruments, and how to play them. The parents can then have a private parent meeting to discuss their ideas, giving them a chance to work together to impose boundaries. The parents then can tell the children what they will be playing and hand out instruments. In families where the parents are not always acting as the parent, it is important to establish the parent as the care giver. An activity to use to develop this skill is to have the parent provide a basic rhythm. The child may then improvise off of that basic rhythm. This interaction shows the child and the parent that the parent is there to provide the basic structure for the child to use as a basis for growth.