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Key Takeaways:

  • Family therapy is an avenue for bringing families closer together or repairing the family dynamic.
  • Undergoing family therapy can strengthen bonds, improve communication skills, and help family members enjoy being together.
  • Some fun and engaging family therapy activities include making family vision boards, playing therapeutic board games, or expressing oneself creatively.

Starting family therapy can be daunting, but it’s an excellent avenue for individual and collective healing. If you’re experiencing pressure at work or school or struggling with family relationships, trying your hand at family therapy activities can be the stepping stone to restoring happy dynamics.

Whether you’re new to family therapy or feeling stuck, the diverse range of family therapy activities for emotional connection offers you the power to steer your journey toward stronger relationships.

Understanding Family Therapy

Family therapy aims to improve communication between family members and strengthen dynamics. It may take different forms, such as psychoeducation, which helps family members understand mental health conditions, and functional family therapy, which is a short-term treatment appropriate for adolescents demonstrating risky behaviors.

Benefits of Family Therapy Activities

Family therapy benefits people by addressing communication issues and household-specific problems. It can also benefit families in the following ways:

  • Improved conflict-resolution skills. Family therapy aims to equip families with coping mechanisms that resolve conflicts in ways that don’t damage relationships [*]. It focuses on how family members can meet each other’s individual needs and provides specific guidance for members with mental health conditions.
  • Addressed adult-focused problems. Studies show that family therapy helps treat adult-focused issues like mood and anxiety disorders, psychosis, substance use, and relationship distress [*].
  • Enhanced well-being in children. Studies have demonstrated that family therapy can improve sleep, eating, and attachment problems experienced during infancy and help adolescents with mental health conditions [*].

10 Family Therapy Activities to Strengthen Relationships

Are you on the hunt for family therapy activities? Consider these in your next session!

1. Play Therapy

Play therapy is most appropriate for families with children, as it helps them regulate emotions and articulate problems. In addition, it encourages children to take responsibility for certain actions, demonstrate empathy and respect for others, and improve social skills.

This form of therapy can also benefit adults with dementia, intellectual disabilities, PTSD, or unresolved childhood issues.

Play therapy can take many forms, such as storytelling, puppet shows, creative visualizations, and musical play.

2. Arts and Crafts

Families that struggle to express themselves verbally might prefer art therapy as an outlet. Some techniques include:

  • Making collages
  • Sculpting
  • Taking photos
  • Coloring
  • Drawing and doodling
  • Molding clay

Art therapy works in conjunction with other psychotherapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy and provides opportunities for family members to connect.

3. Role-Playing

Part of progressing in family therapy is stepping into another person’s shoes. For this activity, children can role-play as parents and vice versa, gaining different perspectives on the same situation.

Role-playing offers a unique opportunity to discuss what participants learned about themselves, how they felt in each role, and whether they understood the other person better.

4. Positive Affirmations

Validation plays a significant role in family healing. Family members want to feel acknowledged for their efforts, and incorporating positive affirmations about one another can help do just that.

This activity is simple—start with intention. How do you want the other person to feel? Comforted? Praised? From there, craft an empowering statement. For example: You are loved and appreciated. Recite your affirmations to one another, incorporating them into your daily routine.

Use our Positive Affirmation Worksheet to get started.

5. Musical Activities

If anyone in your family is musically inclined, incorporating music into therapy sessions can benefit them. Still, not everyone needs to know how to play an instrument.

Family members can share their favorite songs and music, bonding over shared interests or delving into each song's meaning. Parents can share the different ways of listening to music from older generations, such as vinyl, cassette tapes, and MP3 players.

6. Genograms

Genograms are visual representations of a person’s family, with symbols indicating gender identities, diagnoses, and connections between members. In creating genograms, family members can identify patterns and behaviors that might affect their relationships and dynamics.

Participants can also study how their family history might affect present relationships and behaviors. Overall, genograms offer valuable insight into why certain events happened and allow professionals to understand families better.

7. Coping Skills Kits

It can be challenging to keep your cool, whether you're a parent or a child. By building coping skills kits together, all family members can gain insights into what makes someone feel comfortable and how they can help.

Each coping skill will look different, but they might include stress balls, fidget toys, prayer cards, affirmations, and other comfort items.

8. Meditation & Breathing

You’ll be surprised to see how far a meditation session can take you and your family. When parents are peaceful, so are their children!

There is no “right” way to meditate. You can follow a guided meditation on YouTube or sign up for a family meditation class to continue the therapeutic benefits after your session. Meditation involves the basics of breathing. Use our breathing exercises or diaphragmatic breathing handout to get started.

9. Board Games

Family game nights can be fun, but they can also get heated! Fortunately, there are ways to make traditional games like Monopoly more therapeutic, such as trying board games created specifically for family therapy.

Family Pursuit is one such game—it’s like Trivial Pursuit, only it includes prompts that help family members connect. It aims to help family members get to know each other better and show more appreciation for one another.

10. Family Vision Board

A family vision board is a fun and creative way to identify shared goals. Use printouts, photos, magazines, and mixed media, and ask each family member to add five to ten things representing their aspirations to the board.

Leave the middle section for your family's vision. For example, you might want to travel more together, move to a new city, or find better communication methods.

The Bottom Line

All families encounter disagreements and fallouts, but you can do something before relationships become irreparable. You can create essential stepping stones toward healing with the right mindset and the activities we listed above.

Explore our CBT worksheets collection to help facilitate CBT-related interventions and activities in family therapy.

Sources:

  1. Reiter MD. “Family Therapy: An Introduction to Process, Practice and Theory.” Routledge, 2017.
  2. Carr A. “Couple therapy, family therapy and systemic interventions for adult‐focused problems: the current evidence base.” Journal of Family Therapy, 2019.
  3. Carr A. “Family therapy and systemic interventions for child-focused problems: the current evidence base.” Journal of Family Therapy, 2019.

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