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Oklahoma State University

What is Marriage and Family Therapy?

Marriage and family therapy focuses on solving problems in relationships - between couples, parents and children, siblings, in-laws, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, ex-spouses, friends, co-workers, or business associates. Marriage and family therapy usually includes talking with other family members in therapy, and may include performing tasks or homework assigned by the therapist. Marriage and family therapy differs from individual or group therapy by focusing primarily on solving problems in relationships between people. Marriage and family therapists believe that an individual’s problems are often a sign of difficulties between people, for example, a person may become depressed within a painful marital situation. Generally, marriage and family therapy works to improve relationships between people, and increase understanding of family roles, patterns, rules, goals, and stages of development. In contrast, traditional therapists most often focus on an individual’s personal problems, internal feelings, or past development through reflection or insight.