What is a Family Therapist?

Photo of pensive man who could benefit from a family therapistWhen I’m asked if I’m a Psychologist, a Psychotherapist, a Social Worker, my answer is that I’m a Family Therapist. A Family Therapist is defined by how she works, not by with whom she works. A family therapist works with individuals, couples, and families.

As I work with you, I consider your view of the world, the pressures that work against your change, what rules and roles guide you, possible boundary issues, communication styles, and support systems. Some of these may be new concepts for you so I will explain.


Photo of an exhausted woman in need of family therapyFamily Therapy is an approach to working with people. A Family Therapist is a systemic thinker. We all belong to multiple systems. Some of the systems you might belong to are your family-of-origin, family by marriage, work, “family by choice”, and friends. Helpful concepts in understanding systems include:

  •  Systems like to stay the same; they don’t like to change.  This is called homeostasis. If part of a system wants to change, either the system changes it back or the whole system needs to change.  Addressing these forces that work against you maintaining change is important.
  • Changes can be made in any part of the system can change the whole system.  This is due to circular causality. An example I like to use is a man who wants to watch a football game and has looked forward to it all week.  He doesn’t mention it to his wife.  He gathers his snacks and drinks and is ready to sit in front of the TV for the entire game.  After the game starts, his wife comes in and asks him to take out the garbage.  He tries to ignore her and turns up the volume on the TV. The wife feels ignored and steps in front of the TV to make her request again.  Again, her husband is irritated and turns up the volume.  And so on. . .
    If at any point, either spouse did something different, the whole situation would change.  For example, if the man told his wife ahead of time that he wanted to watch the game and asked ahead of time for her cooperation, it all would have changed.  If the wife noticed her husband was watching football and had set up “camp” and waited for a commercial, the rest would have changed. A change at any point in the system can change the entire system.


photo of happy family man woman and child after visiting a family therapistHierarchy is a a system in which people or things are placed in a series of levels with different importance or status. In families, this concept applies in relation to spouses, parents and children.  For most families, a well-functioning hierarchy is where the parent(s) are in charge.  There is a good “coalition” between the parents (the parents work well together) that is not over-turned by the children. Events and fear can change this hierarchy.

If the hierarchy in your family is not helping it’s time to try something different.
Call me at (303) 444-2003


Boundaries are invisible barriers that manage contact between people.  They either keep people in or keep people out. The purpose of boundaries is to be protective. Boundaries are part of the rules, roles and interactional patterns of a system. They effect levels of closeness, independence, problem solving, responsibility and skill development.

If boundaries are clear and appropriate, family members can develop a helpful balance between independence and interdependence. Often times, boundaries are either too rigid (overly protective) or too flexible (don’t adequately protect). Rigid boundaries keep people out. When you are used to rigid boundaries, it’s hard to let people in or feel close to others. Diffuse boundaries can make it hard to be your own person, have your own opinions and feel good about yourself.

Sometimes, parents are afraid of setting boundaries (or limits) due to fear. This helps no one. The parent(s) feel powerless and the kid(s) don’t have adequate protection. Helpful, appropriate boundaries help everyone.

If the boundaries you grew up with and still maintain today aren’t helping you, I can help.

Call me at (303) 444-2003 for more information or to schedule an appointment.


Helping You on the Path From Surviving to Thriving