Do you wish there was less conflict in your family relationships?
Family Therapy can help family members feel seen, heard, and heal together. I specialize in high conflict families and family reunification and use two different models to teach your family emotional regulation, positive communication styles, and healthy expression of emotion to manage conflict, feel more connected, and feel confident in problem solving together.
I teach parenting classes for the Department of Children and Families Services and apply those skills in supporting parents to increase knowledge and confidence in supporting their kids, with an emphasis on parents and teenager relationships and blended families.
Families OverComing Under Stress (FOCUS) is a structured resiliency model for families facing adversity and traumatic stress. Originally developed for military families, this family therapy model helps families talk about their feelings, clarify misunderstandings and learn to respectfully disagree, improve upon the strengths of the family and feel closer to one another.
Functional Family Therapy (FFT) is a short-term family therapy model developed for families who may have at risk 11-18 years olds with behavioral challenges. This model focuses on building upon the strengths your family already has and developing acceptance and respect for each other through relational assessments and intervention.
LMFT Therapy Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist directed therapy
Frequently Asked Questions About Family Therapy
What’s the difference between high conflict versus normative dysfunction in families?
It’s hard to classify what’s normative or not, I typically don't really like even using the word normative. All families have some parts of dysfunctional behaviors of course, no one is perfect. When we are looking at distinguishing between when therapy is needed, I would actually say probably most family systems could benefit from a few family sessions. When the behaviors and patterns in the family become hurtful, disrupt the functioning of folks, keep family members from feeling safe and comfortable existing as themselves, these are all indicators that family therapy would be a good move. “High conflict” is a term to help find a therapist who is a good fit for your family. High conflict speciality means the therapist is equipped and experienced with yelling in session, dysregulation, and folks who have trouble sitting still and having calm conversations together and need someone to step in more often than typically to structure and direct productive conversation. I usually have a caveat when I begin with families that part of my job as the family therapist is to interrupt. It’s not meant to be disrespectful or rude, it’s meant to keep us on topic, give everyone a chance to speak, and keep physical and emotional safety in session. They’re not paying me to sit there and witness the same arguments play out that they have at home, they are in therapy to do things differently.
Are there any family systems models you use frequently or feel are helpful when working with families?
At the end of the day, I don’t believe that particular models or evidence based practices are a game changer in most therapy. Evidence shows the most important indicator of efficacy is the relationship with the therapist, so yes the models and training can be helpful but I always pair that with telling folks it's more important to like and trust your therapist or you won’t want to be influenced by sessions if you don’t feel understood. That said, I’m trained in two big ones, FFT and FOCUS for families.
What is different about doing therapy with a family versus an individual or couple?
I think it’s more powerful because nothing happens in a vacuum. Many times when I’m working with individuals, we spend a lot of session time working through relational responses to family members anyways. Family sessions give a chance to promote meaningful changes in the system. If one person is in therapy, and everyone else is on their same BS, it’s like the person in therapy will disrupt the homeostasis of the family and could even get scapegoated as “the problem”.
Who should be present in family therapy, and how do we define the family unit?
It’s worth mentioning in my practice that family doesn’t have to be defined as blood relatives. My clients get to decide what family means to them and who to include. Typically I encourage everyone in the household to join at least some sessions. Sometimes I’ll get into a few sessions and then find out that there’s a grandparent who’s actually doing a lot of the discipline and isn’t present in the family therapy, that’s a point where I’m going to encourage everyone to get involved.
What might be some reasons people will seek or benefit from family therapy?
Often times what happens is one person in the family is seen as the problem, which is called the “identified patient”. This person will do something to disrupt the normal flow or pattern of the family and the family will come into therapy to work together to “fix” this person. Part of family therapy at that point is helping the family understand they all have a role in the dysfunction and taking accountability for that.
Family Therapy can help family members feel seen, heard, and heal together. emotional regulation, positive communication styles, and healthy expression of emotion to manage conflict, can help families feel more connected, and feel confident in problem solving together.
What outcomes/goals do families try to achieve when seeking family therapy?
The typical goals I work with are usually, more positive communication, more connectedness, better problem solving, able to share and process feelings together, I’ve even had people come in that just want more peace in their home.
What can people expect to experience when being in family therapy?
I usually separate the families I work with into dyads for initial sessions so I can get a clear picture of what’s going on and my clients feel safer sometimes this way. So I'll do a parent/caregiver session, then I’ll do a sibling session and build rapport along the way. Then when we all come together, we start by identifying goals and rating where the family thinks they are currently and where they want to be. We always want to make sure the goals are realistic. FOCUS for families has a really helpful tool here.
How do we treat and approach trauma within the family system?
Similar to couples work, some trauma work has to be done individually to stabilize and promote safety of the survivors. I have done some reunification work with a parent who has been abusive who has gone through their own healing process individually and with their children who are consenting and have also gone through individual work and feel ready to process.
Oftentimes though, trauma in family therapy is often about healing from the pain of someone who isn’t in the room. This can be powerful because it provides family members with a space to share their individual experiences of trauma events that the household all experienced. In this way families can support each other better and heal together because they have a better understanding of the impact and perspective of each person.
In families who have high amounts of conflict, what interventions and ways of approaching these families have you found to be helpful?
Having more structure especially in the beginning is helpful. We start by setting clear rules. In zoom, I’ll sometimes ask family members to join from different rooms in the house so they all have their own screens. If someone is getting dysregulated and not able to hear my redirection, I’ll mute them or ask them to take a 2-5 min break and come back. When learning communication skills we sometimes use scripts, and practice role playing different ways of responding in session.
What can families do to get help?
Remember that all people in the treatment unit need to agree to participate and provide consent, we can’t force family members into therapy. Keep in mind there are many ways to find healing and what defines a healer can depend a lot on culture and racial background. Getting help may look like therapy, or it may look like connecting with community, healing through prayer or spirituality, seeking support from holistic healers, beginning to exercise, or changing daily habits. Therapy always requires consent and works best when all people seeking treatment feel motivated and ready to do the work.
What resources do you recommend for families as an adjunct or way to better understand their dysfunction or challenges?
UCLA FOCUS site has good information on getting started with family therapy and understanding trauma: