How do you define ‘Family?’ definition
This seems like a pretty straight forward question, right? I thought so too, but when I reached out to my Facebook community, these are some of the responses I got:
“The people who made me who I am.”
“My chosen family.”
“My definition of family is people who are there for you in times of joy and times of sorrow. They help you grow and figure out who you really are. They care for your wellbeing. They do not have to be blood or law related.”
“Those I trust.”
Do these answers surprise you? At one time in our culture, the most common answer probably would have had something to do with two parents, one mom and one dad, and children. Most likely biological. What do you notice when you read that? There’s something missing, isn’t there? I think so too. Not only does this definition leave out so many people, but it also strictly defines how a family is structured and created.
When I began my training in Marriage and Family Therapy back in 2010, my definition of family had a specific focus on biology. Not only did my definition include my parents and siblings, but also extended family members. As I learned more about family systems and how it truly takes a village to raise children and support people, particularly related to mental health, my definition slowly started to change. For example, I provided In-home skills and therapy services during my practicum. This experience opened my eyes to a world I was unfamiliar with. I worked with single parent families, families whose caregivers were Grandparents, adopted families, same-sex caregiver families, and families who considered their neighbors closer than aunts and uncles. I even came to a realization that families do not have to include children at all, and might have a heavy focus on pets!
According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, “Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) are mental health professionals trained in psychotherapy and family systems, and licensed to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders within the context of marriage, couples and family systems.” As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I not only walk on clients’ journeys with them asking to have family members and support systems in the office, but most of the time do so without those people physically in the room. I enjoy helping people heal and find it especially rewarding when I can do so within the context of relationships. So, I will ask you again, how do you define ‘family?’
Written by Candace Hanson, MA, LMFT
About Marriage and Family Therapists. Retrieved from http://www.aamft.org/iMIS15/AAMFT/Content/About_AAMFT/About_Marriage_and_Family_Therapists.aspx
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