What is family therapy?

Family therapy is a mental health practice based on research and theory that individual emotional and mental health, as well as problems affecting people in families is best treated in the context of family and other relationships. This perspective makes family therapy particularly appropriate for many culturally distinct communities including African American communities.

What training is required of family therapists?

Family therapists are often credentialed as licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFT). Professionals from related mental health fields including psychiatry, psychology, social work, professional counseling and psychiatric nursing may also be trained as family therapists. A licensed marriage and family therapist will have either a Master’s degree, or a Doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy or postgraduate training in marriage and family therapy, as well as a minimum of two years of supervised clinical training. They should have passed a rigorous licensing exam and should be involved in ongoing Continuing Education in the field.

Do I have to be married to see a family therapist?

No. Being married, or even being with your family is not required to see a family therapist.

What services are provided by Family Therapists?

Family therapists are trained to diagnose and treat mental disorders and provide individual psychotherapy as well as therapy for couples, children, families and groups. Some family therapists also provide premarital education and counseling. LMFTs are able to help with depression, substance abuse, domestic violence, anxiety, emotional trauma and other family and mental health problems.

I have heard that if I talk to a therapist it means that I am showing a lack of faith in God?

As a family therapist, I am trained to respect my client’s spiritual beliefs and to include those beliefs in the therapy. I believe that spirituality is an important aspect of African American Culture. I also believe that it is be important to work with a client in gaining the support of their religious community to heal some problems.

Does it mean I’m crazy if I see a therapist?

No it does not. In fact to look for help when you are facing a problem, can be a sign of clear thinking. The idea that only “crazy” people see therapists is related to out of date styles of psychotherapy that focus on looking for sickness (pathology). I understand the “healthy suspicion” that African Americans have developed after such racist atrocities as the Government experiment on Black men at Tuskegee, and other abuses by the medical and psychological professions. I work hard along with other concerned healthcare workers to insure that these types of atrocities will not happen again. I focus on the personal and cultural strengths that are evident in the people who consult with me.

Isn’t it true that therapy is really meant for White people?

No, this is not true. There is a long history of emotional healing and “talk”counseling in African American culture. We have always had wise counselors to help us, from ministers to community “mothers”, to wise grandparents. I realize that current conditions make it often difficult to find these traditional wise counselors. I come from the African American community and have placed an emphasis on researching and developing approaches to family therapy that are soundly grounded in African American cultural traditions of the wise counselor as well as the best understanding of new therapeutic research.

What should I ask to determine if a therapist is qualified?

a) You should ask questions to determine whether the therapist is grounded in and has an orientation toward African American culture and working with African American families.

b) It is also appropriate to ask whether the therapist is comfortable with working in the context of your Spirituality if that is important to you.

c) You also want to know whether the therapist is a member of any professional organization such as the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (AAMFT), The National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW), The American Family Therapist Association (AFTA) or the Association of Black Psychologist (ABpsy).

d) You should also ask about the therapist’s educational and training background and whether they are licensed to practice in your State.

e) Are they experienced in working with the kind of problem you are facing?

f) You also may want to know the cost of therapy, methods of payment accepted and the average number of sessions that you might expect to attend.

Do you take insurance, and how does that work?

To determine if you have mental health coverage through your insurance carrier, the first thing you should do is call them. Check your coverage carefully and make sure you understand their answers. Some helpful questions you can ask them:

  • What are my mental health benefits?
  • What is the coverage amount per therapy session?
  • How many therapy sessions does my plan cover?
  • How much does my insurance pay for an out-of-network provider?
  • Is approval required from my primary care physician?
Does what we talk about in therapy remain confidential?

Confidentiality is one of the most important components between a client and psychotherapist. Successful therapy requires a high degree of trust with highly sensitive subject matter that is usually not discussed anywhere but the therapist’s office. Every therapist should provide a written copy of their confidential disclosure agreement, and you can expect that what you discuss in session will not be shared with anyone. This is called “Informed Consent”. Sometimes, however, you may want your therapist to share information or give an update to someone on your healthcare team (your Physician, Naturopath, Attorney), but by law your therapist cannot release this information without obtaining your written permission.

However, state law and professional ethics require therapists to maintain confidentiality except for the following situations:

* Suspected past or present abuse or neglect of children, adults, and elders to the authorities, including Child Protection and law enforcement, based on information provided by the client or collateral sources.

* If the therapist has reason to suspect the client is seriously in danger of harming him/herself or has threatened to harm another person.