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Four Questions a Great Family Therapist Asks

Last Updated: September 6, 2022

Soccer is a game with several different playing positions. Each player knows his role within the game. The coach of the team needs to know which player is best for each position. The coach needs to make it clear to the players what their responsibilities are during the game. A great family therapist is taking on the role of coach of your family team. Each member of the family needs to trust the “coach” to make the right calls and to respect all of the players. Any family therapist who can meet the needs of the “players” will be a great fit for the family. As a coach, the therapist will ask questions to get an idea of how your family works. Four examples of these questions could be:

1. If a miracle happened while you were sleeping, what would you notice to be different when you woke up? Each member of the family might have their own answer to this question. The question will bring up the expectations of each family member and what they wish could be true. When all of the family members hear the responses, they might gain the perspective from another family member’s point of view. The family therapist will be noting all of the answers, which will aid in developing goals for the family. Each family member might have a different goal and they could be conflicting. This is where the “coaching” comes in. The therapist will help each family member understand each person’s point of view without blame or shame.

2. What is your happiest memory with your family? Individuals in a family respond to events in their own unique way. This question can uncover incidents that have value to each person. It can bring a family together when they share memories that make them feel included and loved. On the other hand, if a family member cannot think of any happy memories this is an indication that the family is not connected at a basic level. This will also give valuable information to the family therapist regarding the connections in the family.

3. Which family member do you go to when you need someone to talk to? This question will bring up the connections within the family. Does everyone have someone to turn to? Is someone left out? Different alliances develop within a family unit that can be constructive or destructive depending on the situation. It is important for a therapist to understand what these alliances look like in order to gain insight into the family dynamic.

4. Do you have dinners together? If so, what is dinner typically like? If not, what does everyone do for dinner? Dinner can be a time for the family to come together to talk about the day and support one another or family dinner can be a stressful time that everyone just wants to get through. This question will give the therapist information about the values of the family and the various daily stressors that impact the family. Family roles often become clear during dinner time. Who makes the meal? Who cleans up the meal? What conversations are happening and who orchestrates the conversations? Does everyone do their own thing and avoid one another? The therapist can gather the information that will help guide the treatment after hearing the answer to this question.

Each family consists of individuals with personalities and perceptions of their own. It can be difficult at times for families to navigate the conflicting personalities in a constructive way. The best therapist will get to know each player on the team and will be able to develop strategies that will allow each member to thrive.