Q: What is a family therapist or a systemic psychotherapist?
Family therapy is a type of psychotherapy that helps family members improve communication and resolve conflicts.
A family therapist views problems as patterns or systems that need to be adjusted, as opposed to viewing problems as part of a person. A family therapist has a very specialised skill set and has completed master’s level accredited training in order to work with family members.
Many family therapists use their skill outside the traditional ‘therapy’ setting and prefer to be called systemic psychotherapists. A systemic psychotherapist also works in areas such as consultation, publication, research, supervision and training.
Q: When is family therapy helpful?
Family therapy is useful for families and relationships that are facing a wide range of difficulties and experiences, such as:
• Families and couples who want to build closer and happier relationships
• Families facing difficult challenges such as alcoholism, mental illness, physical illness, bereavement, eating disorders, ageing, family conflicts, cultural adjustments or trauma
• Families who are worried about the behaviour of their children
• Families who are fostering or adopting children
• Parents going through divorce or separation who want to focus on the needs and happiness of their children
• Any family who would like someone to help them talk about difficult things together in a way that is safe, open, creative and useful
Q: What evidence is there for the effectiveness of family therapy?
Research shows Family Therapy is useful for children, young people, adults and older adults experiencing a wide range of difficulties and circumstances including:
• Couple relationship difficulties
• Child and adolescent mental health issues
• Adult mental health issues
• Child, adolescent and adult behaviour difficulties
• Parenting issues
• Illness and disability in the family
• Separation, divorce and step-family life
• Anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders
• Fostering, adoption, kinship care and the needs of ‘looked after’ children
• Domestic violence and abuse
• Drug and alcohol misuse
• The effects of trauma
• Difficulties related to ageing and other life cycle changes
(See here for reference)
Q: My partner/family member does not want to attend therapy. Can I still attend sessions on my own?
Yes, you can attend family therapy on your own. While family therapists often prefer to have all family members affected by the problem in the room, it is not always possible or necessary. The therapist will still be able to help individuals.
Q: Will my sessions remain confidential?
A professional code of ethics guides all mental health professionals in matters of confidentiality and the release of information.
Therapists cannot disclose any personal information about their clients without prior permission, unless
(1) you have given written permission to your therapist to discuss a matter with another party (e.g. your doctor)
(2) your therapist determines you are a danger to yourself or others
(3) in the unlikely event that your therapist is ordered by the court of law to disclose information, or
(4) you have given information indicating the abuse of children.
Your therapist will inform you of the situation prior to making any such disclosure. If you have concerns about confidentiality, it is good to discuss these issues at your first session. Don’t be afraid to ask.
Q: Is Reconnect Child and Family Therapy open to everyone?
Yes. We provide services to children, individuals, couples, families, schools and organisations; regardless of age, ethnicity, race, religion, gender and sexual orientation. Sessions can also be conducted in Mandarin.
Q: Can I just walk-in or do I have to make an appointment?
We work by appointments only. As there is no receptionist, the therapist may be in the middle of a session. We regret that we will not be able to attend to you if you do not have a pre-arranged appointment.
Q: What can I expect at the first session?
It is normal to feel nervous for the first session, but being prepared and knowing what to expect can help calm your nerves.
If it is your first time to The Adelphi, please allow enough time to find the office. It is located on the 5th floor, which is accessible from the car-park/fireman lift. In your first session, the therapist will spend an additional 15 minutes to explain about confidentiality, payment and cancellation policies, and to sign consent for treatment forms. The therapist will begin the session by asking questions about you and your family. Be open, honest and feel free to ask questions back. Be prepared to share information about why you are seeking help now. If you have been referred by another professional, it will be helpful to bring in any notes or the letter relating to your referral.
Q: How long is a session?
A therapy session for one person normally lasts one hour. Sessions for a couple or a family will last 90 minutes, as there are more family members’ thoughts to share and explore.
Q: How often do I need to attend sessions?
The number of sessions and frequency will depend on you and your concerns. There is no fixed number of sessions, though family therapy generally needs around 6-20 sessions for families to move forward. After your first meeting, you and your therapist will discuss your goals and negotiate an initial number of sessions to commit to and the frequency of sessions.
Q: What are the methods of payment?
Fees are payable by cheque, cash or bank transfer and should be paid in full at the end of each session. Reconnect is a registered private limited company and not funded by any agency. However, for those who wish to receive therapy but have financial difficulties, we are willing to consider a reduction of fees on a sliding-scale. Please contact us to discuss your needs.
Q: What happens if I cannot make the scheduled session?
For therapy to be effective, sessions need to take place on a regular basis. If you need to cancel or reschedule an appointment, please notify us at least 24 hours prior to your scheduled time. You can call, leave a voicemail, SMS or email to reschedule. Cancellations made with less than 24 hours’ notice will be charged at full rate. This is standard practice within counselling professions and we seek your understanding. In the case of emergencies, please contact your therapist as soon as you know that you will miss a session.
Q: What is the difference between a counsellor, a psychologist, a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist?
There are many terms for mental health professionals. The main difference is with the training for each profession, though the meanings can overlap.
A counsellor’s training can vary from a diploma to master’s level degrees. A counsellor tends to deal more with life issues, such as stress and relationships. Counselling will enable you to explore personal development and create adjustments in your life.
A psychologist is a person who holds a master’s or doctoral degree in psychology. A psychologist may have a doctoral degree (PhD) and be called a “Dr”, but they are not a medical doctor. A clinical psychologist is usually trained to deal with issues such as depression, schizophrenia or disabilities and helps a patient through counselling and psychotherapy.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor, who can prescribe medication and can also provide psychotherapy.
A psychotherapist has extensive training in therapy and has a master’s or doctoral degree in the chosen approach. A psychologist or a psychiatrist can also practice psychotherapy. Psychotherapy will allow you to examine, evaluate and learn how to adjust your feelings, actions and thoughts.
As a marriage counsellor, I think it's important to review and recommend books that can help couples who are struggling. John Gottman's The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is very useful for helping couples work through their problems. It's easy to read, it has some great advice, and it also has questionnaires and practical exercises that couples can work on together.