Experiential Family Therapy


The institution of family is of great importance for every developing country. To provide the continuation of the family traditions and stable peculiarities in cultural and everyday life and to save their uniqueness people are constanptly trying to protect land improve their originali0ty and genuine coloring in their way of life and the succession of stages in life concerned with family and points on how it should be maintained and elaborated in future, so that not to lose the prescriptions which the ancestors left for further generations. The paper deals with the issue of family therapy in terms of different approaches, such as psychoanalytical, structural, and experiential. The last approach is taken into account as a leading one.

The thing is that the families in the new twenty-first century are disintegrated in their notional and functional peculiarities. Their structural constituents are lack of morale approach. It explains, particularly, the nature of today’s family institution being in decline and total destruction. It is considered, especially, with the United States, where the extent of family disruptions drew to a head for today. Main reasons for this are the lack of family counseling, morale background due to the flow of time where the obscenity and dissipation are taken for granted by people in the developed countries. Moreover, the researchers prove the further aggravation of the problem. Goldberg and Goldberg (2008) state according to their observation that today’s family should be considered with different factors which contemplate such “unique situations as early or later marriages, interracial coupling, foster parenting, informal kinship adoptions, social class position, and so forth” (2). This is why it is so necessary for families in the US to follow the therapeutically grounded and socially as well as ethically evaluated approaches in making peoples’ lives more concerned and happier in marriages. Furthermore, the marital peculiarity makes lives of individuals step on another higher level of societal and personal essence. In this respect family counseling and its experiential type play a great role.

Family Relationship Framework

In contemporary society people frequently compare the family as a simple gathering of people genetically related and having the same “roof” under their heads. Such evaluation was maintained due to a lack of rationality and right approach toward family as a unit of the nation’s structural part promotes degradation of the family institution in every place or country where above mentioned understanding of the family concept prevails. People do not even take into account the values which family bears and which it may cultivate in individuals with a flow of time. The experience while having family affairs along with positive or negative circumstances of life is worthless and makes an individual strong and able to go through difficulties. Furthermore, parental activity and conscientiousness play a great role in making further generations stronger and able to succeed in those spheres which were not achieved previously by their parents. It is so while observing the family approach. In the national perspective family institution provides healthy environment and capacities of people to accumulate, balance, and deliver experience to heirs. Furthermore, in interpersonal communication it provides the collective development of social, economic, and even scientific thought due to sharing of information within a family or families. Interpersonal communication skills point out the current capacities of a man to behave with people in a proper way, so that not to break the entire and so necessary connection with people. It is so, definitely, because of the biosocial nature of a man. An individual needs to communicate in order to provide better conditions for life. If such communication is not offensive, impulsive, or aggressive, then an individual gains authority within others. Otherwise, the total condemnation may rise in a community. Such hazards are obvious for contemporary families, but, first, there should be a clear definition of what family is.

When defining a family as a concept one should take into account the next points which cannot but be added to a contemporary family as it is. Among such factors are: “race; ethnicity; social class membership; family life cycle stage; number of generations in a defined country; sexual orientation; religious affiliation; the physical and mental health of its members” (Goldenberg & Goldenberg, 2008, p. 1). In this respect Wicks, Parsons, and Capps (2003) provide the assumed statement that family therapy is inclined to help people work out any conflict concerned with above mentioned parameters. This idea is supported with an inner desire of people to find their halves and to settle down. Family framework is an issue of multiple discussions in the society because of different changes in it reckoned with the needs of time and trendy movements considered with it. Nonetheless, the concept of family presupposes a well-structured unity of people closely related in their inner intentions and motives for loving another people and having the logical continuation considered with children.

Genealogical Tree

Every family cannot go without previous background of predecessors and relatives which are close to individuals genetically. This is why every family has its own history and peculiarities as of how its development was provided and in what key the relationships are elaborating at the moment. Members of a family are characterized by their ethnicity, first of all, in order to define the “types of blood”. Then, the social status and position within other individuals plays a significant role. Achievements of ancestors and relatives on the whole are the matter of pride for those being affiliated to the family. The entire desire of a man to be similar to parents, relatives, and other closely related people yields a strong stimulus in order to succeed in various spheres of life. In this case genograms may explain the emergence of suchlike intentions from the historical and genetic points of view. McGoldrick, Gerson, and Petry (2008) provide a clear picture of why genograms are important for people and how according to them medics and counselors can make conclusions about peculiar points in this or that family:

For a clinical record, the genogram provides an efficient summary, allowing a person unfamiliar with a case to grasp quickly a huge amount of information about a family and to scan for potential problems and resources. Whereas notes written in a chart or questionnaire may become lost in a record, genograms information is immediately recognizable and can be added to and corrected at each clinical visit as one learns more about a family (3).

In other words, genograms help people to map their family history for further evaluation of possible advantages and hazards concerned with particular events in the historical cut of a family formation since the very beginning. This flow of historical evaluation is seen on the example of biblical characters. It is known that, for example, Jesus Christ comes from the tribe of the King David. Since that time the lineage of Jesus is so important that the New Testament begins with this piece of information, first of all.

With regards to Mary Ann Boyd (2007) family interventions in terms of therapeutic effect on mental and physical well-being should be taken into account by a counselor along with the distinctive evaluation of genograms touching upon a definite family: “because of the stigma that some cultural groups associate with seeking help, nurses may need to hold intervention sessions in community settings (e.g., churches and schools) or at the family’s home” (Boyd, 2007, p. 214). In accordance with the above mentioned statement church and religious treatment is helpful when medicine has nothing to do. Hence, family counseling is a needful treatment in support of family therapy.

Family Counseling

The necessity of family counseling is important for people of present days. It is so due to the reason of fast and progressive movements of time and technological along with scientific innovations. People experience great stresses and these states of peoples’ psyches are projected then on their families and result in the conflicts and scandalous situations. An effective counseling is needful for the multicultural countries, in particular. The US is not an exception in this case. While working out the extent of family counseling one should bear in mind the main parties inside a family which provide the flow of activities and changes in it. It is, of course, parents and children. In accordance with Suzuki, Ponterotto, and Meller (2001) there is a triangulation in family counseling, promoted by Murray Bowen, which contemplates that when two main parties have conflicts then the effects of them are reflected on the third one, meaning children. This issue helps to better differentiate the roles in a family and to find out the reasons of suchlike triangulation. A triangulated child usually becomes a hostage of parents’ conflicts which causes a symptomatic behavior (Suzuki, Ponterotto, and Meller, 2001). This statement is supported with the thought of Bowen that “all behavior is basically triadic rather than dyadic” (Suzuki, Ponterotto, and Meller, 2001, p. 139).

Looking at the Holy Bible one points out that a man has powers only in case when he /she is a part of a family. In this respect the Scriptures provide many excerpts where the biblical heroes tend to make affairs in the name of their families making the extent of family universal. Counseling was supported in ancient times by a church leader or a prophet who could promote the words of God to His people. Thus, families were strong and firm because there was and is nothing to hide from God. One of the multiple places in the Bible put into the picture the scene when Jonathan asks his father Saul to let David go for the purpose to let his family along with him make sacrifice (Carroll and Prickett, 1998).

James J. Crist (2007) looks at the problem of family counseling as a way to find a consensus according to which everyone inside a family wins and gets what he/she wants in a positive attitudinal reaction. Thus, the author keeps a strict eye on the importance of such factors as confidentiality, time and right directions in counseling and provision of communication as well (Crist, 2007). In this respect the family counseling should go along with the previously maintained individual and group counseling. A person living in the society cannot go without a right direction in making family life predetermined with an entire motivation to find a better and a faster way in order to break down a scandal without ruining family relationships and its tight chains between the members of a family.

The outlook on different countries where the religious flow is felt apparently one may constitute the tendency of family relations consolidation by means of religion as a primary idea. This idea stands as a pivot guaranteeing the eternity of tight relations between the members of a defined family. If the religious background is insignificant, then the families in a country are nearly to have more divorces than stable marriages. This in return makes the nation’s unity weak and disoriented in main values and rational approach toward family as the matter of great importance for human beings. Pastoral counseling should be implemented as a solution. It is not so popular in modern society as a visit to psychoanalytic, but still it is appropriate for peoples’ psychological characteristics and their need to be heard and understood in order to gain moral help instead. The theoretical framework is significant to develop and resolve the problematic issues emerged in life of people. In this case professional counselors attempt to assure their so-called patients to look at the previous experience. Grunwald and McAbee (1999) considering the issue of professional counseling worked the credo of how counseling should prop up against a defined theory: “If the theory is sound, and properly applied, the results probably will be effective” (2). Such statement proves the idea that the more a man is intended to study on the mistakes of others, the more likely is a hope not to make such mistakes on one’s own example.

Experiential Family Therapy

When talking about therapy which is considered with a man’s psyche one should take into account that the intrusion is worked out by a counselor through the psychiatric or psychological approach. In this respect people bear in mind the idea of effective therapy for families where the hope for a happy life soon became an illusion. The experience of a family in making attempts to improve their social and concerned with love affairs is effective only in case when such attempts are willing. There is no doubt when claiming the soulful alliance that without sincere intentions and callings two hearts cannot be united, so that to stand against barriers of life. When differentiating the roles in the family parents are intended to make their children obey and be patient in actions. When parents are saying “Do not act in such way!” or “Be careful about this!” a child in his/her attempts to please parents follows the instructions having a mere understanding of a larger experience which is possessed by older people. In most cases it appears to be so, but according to Catherine Ford Sori (2006) a simple understanding is not a real goal in experiential family therapy. The author states the research of different scholars in this field and points out that “the main goal in family therapy has always been to have an experience with the family, not simply to induce understanding” (Cited in Sori, 2006, p. 40). Here the figure of Virginia Satir is important while estimating the experiential family therapy. McCollum, and Trepper (2001) outlined the research and works of Satir among other scholars so that to depict and evaluate her uniqueness in experiential approach toward family therapy:

Satir used creative techniques that were very experiential in nature, including family sculpting, in which the family members are helped to assemble themselves into physical configurations that reflect their perceptions of their relationships and their roles in the family. This technique is illustrative of Satir’s focus on helping family members become more aware of their experience of themselves and one another (25).

The experiential model promotes the genuine framework to find out the real reasons of problems in family and effectively resolve such problems due to psychoanalytical approach. Again the extent of confidentiality is very significant while providing such therapeutic procedures. With confidentiality a therapist may gain the honest attitude of a patient or patients being examined. Goldenberg and Goldenberg (2008) in return promote the statement which clarifies the role of family members in terms of confidential approach: “the limits of confidentiality should be spelled out by the therapist at the start of therapy, lest family members agree to proceed while operating under wrong assumptions” (142). Moreover, the stimulation of such motives should be reckoned with the need of families to be honest for a counselor. This helps to work out a somehow complicated situation in a family where the conflicts are taken for granted and lead to the destruction of it, as a result.

Kerr and Hoshino (2007) underlining the exceptional role of experiential family therapy point out the importance to augment the role of existential and humanistic approach in psychology for promotion of better treatment by this way. Actually the authors contemplate the use of Whitaker and Satir’s theoretical background in experiential approach toward family therapy, so that to rally peoples’ thoughts over the existential and humanistic impacts on experiential therapy in order to fasten the process of cultivation and maintenance of genuine well-being within families (Kerr & Hoshino, 2007). On the one hand, such approach creates further framework for having no obstacles in provision of family therapy due to a previous experience and all pros and cons in mutual relationships between members of the family. Such experience can be induced then for the purpose of making family connections tighter. Being one of the most substantial parts of family therapy experiential family therapy tends to illustrate the emotional background of a man along with his/her intentions to be listened to. Interpersonal communication is of great significance in this respect and urges for better evaluation of a therapist, counselor, or someone else without any presuppositions of a listener (Kerr & Hoshino, 2007).

Along with the theoretical estimation of family therapy in its experiential approach there is also an atheoretical method of therapy which is known as symbolic-experiential family therapy. As Dattilio and Goldfried (2001) state in their book, this method props up against the “dialectics of individuation and belonging, creativity and adaptation” (179). In fact the essence of human beings urges to have more freedom in actions land plans, so that to reach the extent of harmony as soon as possible. Harmony, in particular, is a hidden motive which is presupposed to be in lives of individuals unintentionally. Harmony is that concept which has a divine design of God’s mind. In God’s word there are too many places where God asks people to calm down and not to be fussy about anything in this world. In this case the symbolic-experiential family therapy is usable for those who are spiritually mature, because it “has a poetic relationship to language and experience, which takes the therapeutic process beneath the surface of the family’s lived experience into the realm of myth” (Dattilio & Goldfried, 2001, p. 179).

Family therapy is aimed at making changes within relatives and helps to make out the significance of family without any negative events having happened ever. Therapists, counselors, pastors are those people who have ma special destination to provide spiritual and mental treatment for families suffering from quarrels and perpetual scandals. In other words, experiential family therapy among other approaches, structural, psychoanalytical and others, helps to evaluate the history of a definite family looking at its genograms, structure, physical and mental health, current circumstances. Furthermore, four factors for improvements inside a family should be taken into account by anyone trying to render professional help to families, namely:

  • Counseling;
  • Promotion of self-care activities;
  • Supportive therapy;
  • Education and health teaching;
  • The use of genograms (Boyd, 2007, p. 214)

The scientific theoretical and practical approach toward making such therapeutic measures more effective presupposes also the sincere attitude toward peoples’ different problems even if they are too complicated for a therapist. The successful counseling in this respect is greatly illustrated on the example of Jesus’ words and deeds which always had either informatory or healing effect in every cases of His walk.

Personal Evaluation

While comprising the realities of nowadays I choose to follow the genuine idea of how family should be maintained according to the word of God. ‘This approach provides the need for effective and productive counseling which is a problem for contemporary people. Looking at above stated research there is no doubt that the morale part of the society should go without the spiritual and rational tendencies in making more improvements for the healthier nation, meaning the United States. Family therapy along with the factors which are considered with it make me more conscientious about the necessity of right motives when building own destiny and planning the would-be family, in particular. Moreover, this approach goes without saying when addressing to what therapist suggest and advice for patients. Of course, the medical help is vital for today’s people as a fast solution to physical or physiological problems. In spiritual and soul issues there is only one effective means to provide therapy for family.

As far as I am concerned, it is the experiential, or, better to say, symbolic-experiential family therapy which is considered with the use of the Scriptures and own experience in terms of fast and improved promotion of well-being for a family falling into an extent of harmony and blessedness on the whole. For a man it is undoubtedly the most desired state of mind and soul within family realities. What is more, this idea fix can be effectively achieved due to right and balanced family counseling. Such approach presupposes a professional elaboration of relationships between a counselor and family members, on the one hand, and between members of family, in particular. Here I see no points on more domination or more subordination between two parents. It is so, because, as I see, the paradox of love consists in the phenomenon that when two different people become the whole, it in turn presupposes their individual freedom. This is why the struggle between two parents for the dominance which can lead to tyranny may become the beginning for dissension.

Leonardo Da Vinci once said that the wisdom is the sister of experience. Continuing this statement I should outline the extreme necessity of individuals to rely not only on personal experience, but also on that of others. The reality states the universal truth that successful people are highly motivated to maintain and develop not only economic and social affairs, but, strange though it might sound, the affairs closely related to their families. Unfortunately, with a fast and rather hasty flow of time where one should make progress in many deeds at once there is a little time for families, and due to this reason I understand why the family counseling along with the extent of family therapy so needful is. In this case Goldenberg and Goldenberg (2008) constitute the previously mentioned truth that “assessing and counseling families from different backgrounds, the family therapist must familiarize himself or herself with the cultural context from which the family comes” (26)… With regards to this statement I should note that not only cultural, but ethnical, religious, social, economical, and other vital and concerned with real and material life factors are significant for a therapist living in a multicultural country and dealing with families. Again, in the United States this issue goes farther, especially when outlining yet existing problem of racial and gender discrimination.

Plan of actions

In order to omit possible conflicts in a family the idea of counting on different major factors concerned with this issue should be born in mind. Furthermore, the start of such general estimation and prophylactic measures for a family well-being should be singled out from the mapping of genograms. Thus, genograms are the first step in making family counseling effective and without integral problems. A genogram is one of the most important constituent parts for a family elaboration and essence of peculiarities which make this or that family original and unique among others. My deepest conviction presupposes that genograms may serve as the primordial parameter to ingrate the family in its uniqueness. McGoldrick, Gerson, and Petry (2008) provide in this case the understanding of an initial importance to use genograms by the following words: “Genograms make it easier for us to keep in mind the complexity of a family’s context, including family history, patterns, and events that may have ongoing significance for patient care” (4). Nevertheless, genograms stay, as for me, the first in the line of ways for family improvements and prevention from probable struggles and conflict situations.

Second, mental and physical health should be evaluated, so that to define the possible inclinations or limitations of individuals in doing various deeds. This psychological approach helps to work out the capacities of an individual to adequately conceive the realities of everyday life in a family. Definitely, a person can be a source of scandals and violation for other members of family if he or she is examined to have some behavior deviation. From the psychiatric point of view such situation may lead to constant struggles. On the other hand, a positive and adequate estimation of all members of the family may give positive results for a family stability.

Third, a counselor should point out, as for me, the religious framework of a family. I see currently the major importance of this part of actions, because faith and integrated universal idea edifies the family in moral and other non-material aspects of life. Moreover, statistical data showed that marriages of great believers are stronger and scarcely have any points on possible destruction (Corey, 2008). I personally nurture faith in God and feel no problem in further creation and building of my family with a lovely husband and pretty children.

Thus, all three steps in evaluation of main factors influencing on family counseling are considered to make family therapy more effective and promote happier life for men of family notwithstanding difficult on despaired situations. It is concerned also with the need of people to communicate and to show honestly what, in fact, troubles them in their families.


The need for family counseling is the core problem in the United States. Families become more and more disintegrated due to social and everyday problems which are supposed with family realities. Another problem which invokes a special attention is the ethnical and economical difference between various layers of the society. People are more intended to take such problems for granted without having a solution of how to prevent them.

Family counseling is considered with the implementation of specific psychological approaches as for the structural, psychoanalytical, experiential, person-centered, gestalt and other types of therapies which are the most popular within therapist and are used in contemporary medicine. Pastoral counseling promotes another effective methodology to make family therapy successful and rich in positive results. In this respect, experiential family therapy stands on the grounds of previous and current experience in estimation of a family’s peculiarities. The points of trust and confidentiality are necessary for therapists and spiritual counselors in order to prove the hopes and desires of patients. As Goldenberg and Goldenberg (2008) underline: “the trust is necessary for therapists to make full disclosures without fear of exposure outside the consultation room” (139). In this respect people should bear in mind that without being able to listen to others in order to further prove the credit of their trust there will be no effect in counseling and in promotion of such a responsible and human destination.

Genetic and social evaluation of persons plays a great role in making further contributions in the matter of nation’s health and quantitative along with qualitative filling of the society. Moreover, the family counseling cannot go without previously maintained individual and group counseling (Crist, 2007). What is more, this flow of gradual improvements within individuals can make them more enduring in life matters, positive or negative. This trend, unfortunately, is not so eagerly sought within masses. Then it is not surprising why there are more and more problems reckoned with families in the United States and in the world, generally speaking.

Reference List

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Carroll, R., and Prickett, S. (1998). The Bible: Authorized King James Version. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Corey, G. (2008). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (8th ed.). Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning EMEA.

Crist, J. J. (2007). Mad: How to Deal with Your Anger and Get Respect. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing.

Dattilio, F. M., and Goldfried, M. R. (2001). Case Studies in Couple and Family Therapy: Systemic and Cognitive Perspectives. NY: Guilford Press.

Goldenberg, I., & Goldenberg, H. (2008). Family therapy: An overview (7th ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brookes/Cole.

Grunwald, B. B., and McAbee, H. V. (1999). Guiding the family: practical counseling techniques (2nd ed.). London: Routledge Mental Health.

Kerr, C., and Hoshino, J. (2007). Family Art Therapy: Foundations of Theory and Practice. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

McCollum, E. E., and Trepper, T. S. (2001). Family solutions for substance abuse: clinical and counseling approaches. London: Routledge.

McGoldrick, M., Gerson, R., and Petry, S. (2008). Genograms: Assessment and intervention (3rd ed.). New York: W.W. Norton and Company.

Sori, C. F. (2006). Engaging children in family therapy: creative approaches to integrating theory and research in clinical practice. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Suzuki, L. A., Ponterotto, J. G., and Meller, P. J. (2001). Handbook of multicultural assessment: clinical, psychological, and educational applications (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.

Wicks, R. J., Parsons, R., and Capps, D. (2003). Clinical handbook of pastoral counseling. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

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PsychologyWriting. "Experiential Family Therapy." September 18, 2023. https://psychologywriting.com/experiential-family-therapy/.