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Family Therapy: A Guide To Understanding Myself

Growing up in Brooklyn, the idea of a family presented itself to me with multiple meanings. For me, family meant my grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings.

Living within a multigenerational household (which consisted of my grandparents, parents, and kids), was like living in three different times. My grandparents were born and raised in a village in Yemen and made a life for themselves here in America, and my parents were very assimilated to American culture but were steadfast in their religion. As for us kids, all we knew was Brooklyn, New York. As much as I loved my family, I was very confused when it came to identifying myself in society.

Marriage and Family Therapy interested me because I view it as more than just therapy. It focuses on understanding the relational dynamics between two or more people, and the systems in which they are embedded. I always go back to my own family; my grandparents, who believe in the opportunities of America, but hold on to their traditional values. Then there are my parents, who have American values but hold on to religion at their forefront.

When I first heard the words family therapy, I was searching for an elective class to sign up for in my last semester as an undergraduate student. I thought it would be a historical framework of psychology in terms of family or family development. But it turned out to be a whole other field of therapy that dives into the systemic frameworks of a family. It finally clicked into my head, and I understood that the identity crisis I have within myself stems from a lack of understanding within my family, society, culture, and life as a whole.

I come back to my family as a form of reference again. I mentioned above that I defined family as those who have shaped my being, and they were all different people at different points of their lives. Growing up, people were confused when I told them of my ethnicity, language, and even my age. Nobody believed I was who I claimed to be. It was always “but you don’t even look Yemeni” or “You don’t even speak proper Arabic” and “you act like a 25-year-old, and you’re 18?” Never once was I able to claim my own identity, something that I viewed as being within me. I took this on myself, and never saw it as anyone else’s problem. But I now understand that those around me have helped shape who and what I am as a person. But I am the creator of my story.

Marriage & Family Therapy, which is the formal name, is a branch of psychotherapy that works with families and couples in intimate relationships to nurture change and development. With family therapy, change is seen and viewed in terms of the systems of interaction between family members. Family relationships are accentuated and seen as an important factor in a person’s psychological health and well being. So when you think of marriage and family therapy, I want you to remember that you are not alone in whatever problem you face. There is more to you than the sum of your parts.

Figure 1[1] shows the many layers of a person's life. Some layers are more direct in shaping a persons life, and others are indirect and shape our thought processes without us even noticing.

[1] Figure 1; Multisystem viewpoint

As I continue to grow and learn more about the ways in which my family thinks, processes and operates; I am able to see the direct and indirect layers that shape my life and hold both,... and. Both,... and is the ability to hold both our families ideologies and our own. Now, when I learn something about my family that is different from my own thinking or feeling like someone may not understand me...I can hold both their ideas and my own.

Comment below what you have learned about your own journey in understanding yourself in terms of your family.

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