10 examples of family therapy telehealth activities

Ashleigh Knowles
Ashleigh Knowles
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Family therapy: What is it?

Family therapy works towards strengthening and building positive relationships within families, as well as alleviating issues or concerns that may be affecting family dynamics. It is a psychotherapy form involving specific family members or the whole unit. Family therapy can facilitate healthier communication and mental health outcomes, as well as reduce conflicts in a shorter amount of time. Clients often enroll in family therapy to create better home environments and work towards developing positive support systems that are based on a foundation of trust and respect. Because family therapy is covered by insurance and can be delivered through telehealth services, it also makes for a highly affordable option. Family therapy can involve a variety of behavioral and psychotherapy techniques and is effective for treating a range of issues such as substance abuse, depression, and anxiety.

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What is the ultimate goal of family therapy?

While family therapy can achieve many goals, it is commonly used to enhance communication and help family members interact in a positive and healthy manner. Family therapy provides family members with the necessary skills to be able to understand each other from different perspectives, as well as the capabilities to promote patience and understanding. Family therapy aims to resolve conflicts and find ways to alleviate negative behavioral issues, thoughts, feelings, and patterns. Families can increase their overall well-being, and find ways to overcome difficult mental health challenges. A family therapist will guide families through their specific situations in order to create an accepting and safe home environment.

Family therapy can help achieve goals relating to grief, relationship concerns, depression, anxiety, and more. Regardless of the size of your family, or whether it consists of primarily children or adults, all families can benefit from the long-term support that family therapy can provide. There are also no limits to the issues that family therapy can treat. It can be as simple as a change in a family dynamic, or a troubling argument that has not been yet overcome.

10 examples of family therapy telehealth activities

Telehealth is becoming an extremely popular method of communication when it comes to family therapy. However, we acknowledge that it can be sometimes difficult to think of engaging activities that continue to be effective within virtual delivery. As a result, we've compiled 10 helpful family therapy telehealth activities that you can implement within your sessions. These family therapy ideas are tried and true and can be used alongside teletherapy worksheets.

Emotions ball

If your family struggles to express emotions, then consider this activity. All you need is a ball, and using a marker, write specific emotions on the ball. This can include happiness, sadness, anger, anxiety, and essentially, whatever other emotion you wish to explore. Toss the ball to one another, and then share a time when you felt the emotion that your index finger is pointing to once the ball is caught. If you're pointing to multiple emotions, then just pick one.

Using colored candy

For this exercise, you will need colored candy such as M&Ms. Separate the candy into their different colors, and associate each color with a specific prompt. Give each family member seven pieces, and encourage them to share their answers with the group. Prompts could include the following:

  • Green - what are some positive memories you have with your family?
  • Red - what do you find difficult in your family dynamic?
  • Orange - what could be improved in your family?

Family gift

With the family gift, each group member is provided with a gift bag and some art supplies. Each member must come up with one gift idea, or multiple gift ideas, that other members would like to receive. The aim of this activity is to evaluate each other's actions while creating the gifts. Members can better understand the needs and preferences of others and work out ways to overcome conflict.

Mirroring activity

This activity allows each family member to act as a mirror for one another. Getting into pairs, family members will copy each other's gestures without touching, in an effort to become more in tune with members' responses and reactions. This activity is a great way to develop greater understanding, as well as patience.

Genogram

Genograms represent family trees, through a schematic perspective. These are used to show emotional ties and relationships and consider how major family disruptors such as divorce and abuse can affect the overall family tree and dynamic. It is an intergenerational examinable tool that can help family members understand how they came to be and where they fit into the greater picture. With this activity, simply work with your clients to produce a family tree that depicts the current situation of your families.

Tracking

Tracking is a great way to evaluate life events in a high level of detail. In this exercise, family members are encouraged to share their perspectives on life events and notate any important information or behaviors that are necessary and important to discuss within appointments. It can track changes over time and allows for widespread evaluation of a variety of factors that can contribute to family dysfunction.

Circular questioning

Circular questioning is a great way to identify and establish connections between family members across different perspectives. As opposed to standardized questions, and how one person affects another, circular questions highlight interactions across multiple family members. For example, circular questions may be formatted like, “who has provided the greatest support for Lucy?”. This allows for each family member to share their thoughts and feelings, and how their point of view can shape family dynamics.

Knowing your stones, knowing your playdough

This activity highlights the situations and factors in life that cannot be controlled versus the scenarios that can be controlled. Sometimes, the root of family dysfunction and relationship communication issues focuses on external influences that we need not concern ourselves with. This activity is a great way to help clients decipher what is worth their time, and what is not. Simply gather rocks and play-doh, and place each one in each of the family members' hands. Ask each family member to describe the physical sensation of both the rock and the play-doh, and connect both perspectives. Ascertain that in life, there are many times when we have situations that are like rocks, and cannot be changed or controlled. Whereas other situations are like play-doh, in that they are soft and can be molded into different shapes or outcomes.

Pick a miniature

Before your next appointment with the family members, instruct them to collect miniatures from home that best describe their family members. During your next session, allow each family member to share the object, how it is in line with the characteristics of the family member it represents, and what are the strengths and weaknesses of both the object and the respective person. Family members may collect hard objects or soft objects and may embody interesting and unique perspectives to creatively discuss how they see other family members.

Strategic alliances

Strategic alliances allow therapists to meet with one family member to foster and catalyze a small change that will affect other family members positively. Sometimes, many family members come to therapy sessions feeling as if they are ignored or have little influence in their families, with strategic alliances used for the exact purpose of helping clients realize their potential and how they can impact others at home.

Family psychotherapy: Taking it one step further

You may be reading all this thinking, what is the difference between family therapy and family psychotherapy? In fact, what is the difference between therapy and psychotherapy? Is family therapy the same as counseling? All of the following are great questions, and we're here to help clear the air.

 Therapy, in short, is the exact same thing as psychotherapy. Therapy is really just a condensed term for psychotherapy. Therapy is an in-depth form of treatment where clients talk through a wide range of issues and feelings, whereas counseling is applied to a specific problem set. If clients are dealing with specific family situations such as divorce, a recent death, addiction, and more, then family counseling may be the best option. Conversely, if a family is struggling with more complex behavioral issues such as depression, abuse, or chronic mental health concerns, then psychotherapy or therapy is the better choice. Family therapy is a great way for therapists to work within the context of families specifically, and help alleviate issues more cohesively, as opposed to at the individual level.

Final thoughts

Family therapy is a great way to strengthen family relationships and build support systems to maintain healthy and positive behaviors. Family therapy can smoothen communication to solve problems more efficiently and can help address the root of family problems such as substance abuse, addiction, divorce, deaths, and other mental health challenges. It can sometimes be difficult to think of activities to engage clients, specifically within telehealth family therapy sessions, which is why we hope this article has helped consolidate your knowledge when it comes to the different ways that you can promote participation and higher results. Family therapy telehealth appointments are becoming increasingly common, and are a surefire way to boost the quality of your services without compromise.

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