How Therapists Help Families Deal with Escalating Stress

We are stressed. To a certain extent, that’s part and parcel of the human condition. But when it reaches toxic levels, it’s worrisome.

A 2014 poll by NPR found that one in four Americans was under a lot of stress in the previous month. About half (that’s more than 115 million) had been exceedingly stressed in the previous year. And some would argue those statistics represent only the tip of the iceberg.

And what’s stressing Americans and our families the most?

Start with financial issues related to school bills for kids, unexpected necessities (the car dies!), the “routine” commitments of rent or mortgage and other debts, and getting food on the table. Financial woes can exacerbate other problems, and the prospect of divorce or separation can affect a family.

Illness also can stress a family, whether in the shared battle to maintain normalcy or in coping with the prospect of the loss of a loved one. And change of any sort, whether transitioning to a new home or school or a new addition in the family, can spark fears and worry when the familiar becomes less so.

Marriage and family therapists are trained to help families deal with any number of the issues that can keep us from productive, happy, balanced and rewarding lives. In fact, therapy provided by these mental health professionals has been shown to be highly effective for problems ranging from mood disorders and anorexia to alcoholism and drug abuse.

Today, individuals, couples and families in the U.S. are being helped by more than 50,000 marriage and family therapists, according to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. There has been tremendous growth in the number of these therapists as the public has grown more aware of their value in a rapidly changing world. It’s a field whose prominence has risen due to a solution-focused treatment approach shorter in duration than many other forms of therapy.

The AAMFT cites research showing a high level of client satisfaction with therapy. More than 90% of clients, according to one survey, reported improved emotional health; nearly two-thirds said their physical health had improved. And over 98% said their therapy services had been good or excellent.

These mental health specialists have graduate training in marriage and family therapy and two years of clinical experience. A bachelor’s degree is the first step, though, toward a career that can help people’s lives and their families.

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