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How Can Family Therapy Help Adult Children And Parents? A Clinical Psychology Podcast Episode.

How Can Family Therapy Help Adult Children And Parents? A Clinical Psychology Podcast Episode.

To kick off 2024 with a big, let’s kick off the year with this great topic from clinical psychology about family therapy for children and parents. In this podcast episode, you’ll learn about 5 different ways how family therapy can be useful for adult children and parents so they can have healthy, loving relationships. If you enjoy learning about psychotherapy, family relationships and clinical psychology then you’re going to love today’s episode.

This episode has been sponsored by Psychology Worlds Magazine. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also, you can buy the eBook directly from me at 

How Can Family Therapy Help Adult Children And Parents?

A lot of psychology students and some psychology professionals might not believe that family therapy could be useful for adult children and parents. This is mainly because whenever we think about family therapy, we all imagine parents trying and struggling to raise young children, control their behaviour and they want some sort of normalcy in their family relationships. Whilst this be true to some extent, family therapy still has a lot to offer parents and children in adulthood because family therapy works within the family system. Something that still exists in adulthood, as well as the longest period of parenthood is actually parenting an adult child that wants a close, loving relationship with their parents so family therapy can make perfect sense for adult children.

Family Therapy Can Break Old Cycles

One of the major benefits of family therapy for adult children and parents is that both of them can hit the same pain points and have the exact same arguments time and time again. For example, if an adult child and their parents used to fight about their fashion sense as a teenager and they’re still having the same arguments now. Also, if a parent knows that their child gets hurt by talk of a passed away pet and they always use that to shut them down and vice versa about a parent’s pain point.

If this happens then the adult child and parent offer feel like they have to try to solve everything on their own, but this is next to impossible because most of the time the adult child and parent won’t see their own faulty communication patterns. As well as any other maladaptive patterns of behaviour.

Therefore, family therapy can be really useful for identifying these old cycles of behaviour and find new ways to respond. This helps the adult child and parent to resolve any issues and the therapy gives clients new tools for addressing any future arguments that will inevitably pop up.

Family Therapy Helps To Manage Stressors

Some families that go to family therapy are the sort of families that work together well together until something new happens. For example, a loss of a loved one, a loss of a job or an injury or something else that’s brand new. This can even include a new romantic partner entering the adult child’s life or a parent dating for that matter. As a result, when these changes happen some families struggle to adapt to these changes and this is where conflict occurs.

Therefore, family therapy can be very useful in helping both the parents and the adult child to manage their pitfalls and these new dynamics so the chance of conflict is greatly reduced. And if we connect to the last point, then family therapy is useful here because the clients will still have new tools to address these issues.

Family Therapy Helps Recreate Outdated Family Roles

This is something I think all families have to do because we’re aware that a parent’s role changes throughout the lifespan of their child. For example, when they’re really young the parent has to control all aspects of the baby or toddler’s life for their own safety (a simplified example but I think it’s largely true). Then in adolescence, the parents start worrying even more because their child is more independent as they go to secondary school and start dating and start exploring what being a young person means to them. And then the parent’s role shifts yet again in adulthood when the child becomes their own person living their own life.

In addition, some families struggle to deal with this change in roles during these transitions, and this leaves everyone acting out in unhelpful, outdated family roles. And an easy example of this is in situations when adult children have struggled to launch into their adult life or they’re struggling to fly the nest because they still have the family role as the young child that needs to be protected and smothered. Also, there are times when the parent won’t let go of their child so they can’t fly off into adulthood.

As a result, family therapy is useful here because it helps families to change and shift into these family roles that reflect what the family actually needs and the norms of their culture. For example, a child moving out and being an adult as well as a parent letting their child do that.

Family Therapy Helps Adult Children And Parents Work Through Past Hurt

I’m no stranger to families causing each other emotional pain because this is where family therapy can be useful. Due to family therapy allows families to work through the pain they’ve caused each other. Also, adult children tend to find it difficult to talk about negative childhood experiences with their parents, which is extremely true from my personal experience.

And even when children do talk with their parents about past hurt the parents tend to invalidate it all, by shutting it down, insisting they did their best, asking the child to be more grateful and on and on and on. That is extremely true and I hate it when parents do that but I understand it because everyone has to maintain a positive self-image.

Anyway, the problem is if adult children and parents don’t resolve these issues then children can get angry, resentful and hurt by their parents even more.

Therefore, family therapy allows adult children and parents to have these conversations in a controlled environment where the adult children is allowed to be heard and understood. All whilst the family therapist gives both the adult child and parents tools and skills to address any issues that come up in the future.

Family Therapy Allows Families To Navigate Estrangement

Whenever one family member chooses estrangement, it is often after months or years of that person attempting to resolve these family issues. Most people describe estrangement as a last resort and it is something that they only do when there is no other choice and I can understand this. Therefore, family therapy can be really useful for adult children and their parents to process estrangement as well as form goals for the ideal outcome that they both want and family therapy means they can navigate this messy and very emotional process. And when I talk about ideal outcomes, this can include them talking a little more and their communication increasing over time, it can be working towards having Christmas together or them working towards having a relationship where they get on and the parent can see their grandchildren, for example.

Social Psychology Conclusion

As we’ve seen in this podcast episode, family therapy isn’t just for families with young children because family therapy can help parents and adult children overcome a lot. For instance, it can help them overcome estrangement, manage new stressors, break old cycles, deal with past hurt and it can help to recreate outdated family roles. And if 2023 has taught me anything, it is how important and amazing families can be when adult children and parents work together and support each other. So everyone can live a better life with less psychological distress, less emotional pain and a lot more joy.



I really hope you enjoyed today’s clinical psychology podcast episode.

If you want to learn more, please check out:

Psychology Worlds Magazine. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also, you can buy the eBook directly from me at 

Have a great day.

Clinical Psychology References

Dallos, R., & Draper, R. (2015). Ebook: An introduction to family therapy: Systemic theory and practice. McGraw-Hill Education (UK).

Qualls, S. H. (1999). Family therapy with older adult clients. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 55(8), 977-990.

Gower, M., & Dowling, E. (2008). Parenting adult children–invisible ties that bind?. Journal of Family Therapy, 30(4), 425-437.

Goglia, L. R., Jurkovic, G. J., Burt, A. M., & Burge-Callaway, K. G. (1992). Generational boundary distortions by adult children of alcoholics: Child-as-parent and child-as-mate. American Journal of Family Therapy, 20(4), 291-299.

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