The Magic of Family Therapy

The Magic of Family Therapy

A recent article in The New York Times asked the somewhat rhetorical question, “Does Couples Therapy Work?” thus setting up a simplistic critique. One could just as well ask, “Does neurosurgery work?” or “Does cardiology work?” or any other equally unfocused inquiry.  The real question to ask is, “What kind of therapist, doing what kind of work, with what types of families and issues, can be helpful to families and couples in crisis, in a meaningful way?” If you are experiencing family relationship distress, choose wisely. Select a family therapist who has had specific training, is comfortable with emotional intensity and will offer clear direction to help resolve identified problems.

Family and Marital therapy is unfortunately more often than not provided by people whose training is primarily in individual therapy. One therapist was brave enough to admit, “While I spend most of the hours in my week working with individuals, I do enjoy the challenge of working with a few couples.” Family and marital therapy is challenging indeed, so why would you want to work with someone who does it less than part-time?

When picking a family therapist, it's important to choose a professional with the correct and specific training required.One expert noted that 80% of all private practice therapists in the United States say they do marital therapy but only 12% of them are in a profession that requires coursework or supervised training. Those who are skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced in family therapy are even fewer. This leaves consumers of family and couples therapy at a distinct disadvantage when looking for a therapist.

A Family Focused Approach requires a unique skill set and is a different intervention than one-to-one treatment. It is driven by a specialized theory and knowledge base. The successful practice of Family Therapy demands particular training and expertise. Family Focused Solutions as practiced by Ronald B Cohen, MD promotes healthy family development at times of stressful transition in the family career.

Are you in the midst of a family crises?  Are the difficult conversations in your family becoming even more difficult? Include the whole family in resolving and improving what is going on right NOW!  When the entire family works to make the difficult journey together, the results are almost magical.

Please feel free to ask any questions or to comment in the “Leave a Reply” box below. To request more information and/or schedule an initial consultation, click here (

You are encouraged to forward this blog to anyone who would be interested in reading it.”

Ronald B Cohen, MD, PC Ronald B. Cohen, MD
Bowen Family Systems Coach
1 Barstow Road, Suite P-10
Great Neck, NY 11021
(516) 466-7530
Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Neil on August 16, 2012 at 1:00 pm said:

    Hi Ronald,

    I am very interested in your work as a family therapist. I agree with you that specific training in family therapy is needed. I’ve been trained as, what you term, an individual therapist/counselor. I’ve recently signed up for some family therapist training, later this year. The quote on the right side of the page is interesting. The first sentence I fully agree with “Individual therapy can be hazardous to a family’s health.” The final sentence “Individual therapy doesn’t teach people how to listen, stay calm when triggered, negotiate actively, or stretch to empathize with a family member who intensely annoys and frustrates them” I’m not so sure about. I think you’re right in that if both partners do not come and engage together, things can be more difficult but more from the point of view that the one coming to therapy will be making changes that can become hard for the other partner to deal with. The issue I see is more with the person who may not come, not with the one who does.

    Wishing you well in your work.


    • Ronald B Cohen, MD on August 23, 2012 at 2:24 am said:

      Hi Neil,

      The nature of family therapy depends not on how many people are in the room but how the family’s difficulties are understood and addressed. The practice of family systems therapy is distinguished by how the clinician attends to the relationship system in diagnostic evaluation, problem formulation, and treatment planning. It is not simply another method of treatment, but an all-encompassing theoretical orientation that views the family as a social system, with assessment and treatment of the problems of an individual member in the context of the family as an interactive unit. Family systems theory connects individual and relationship problems to the multiple triangles that surround and entangle them. A systems viewpoint can be utilized regardless of how many people are physically present in the consulting room. Such an approach that incorporates “the normative crises of the family life cycle” provides numerous opportunities for preventative mental health care.

      Whether it’s David Miklowitz’ Family Focused Therapy for families struggling with bipolar disorder, Marc Galanter’s network therapy approach for maintaining a sober life style, the psychoeducation paradigm for addressing expressed emotion in families with schizophrenia, Constance Ahrons’ work with divorced, remarried and blended families or John Rolland’s Family Systems-Illness Model among many others, Family Systems Therapy is the treatment of choice for relationship difficulties, intergenerational conflict, and other problems endemic to the family life cycle. These collaborative, resilience-promoting approaches focus on strengths and resources to heal from painful experiences and recover from life crises in order to enhance the functioning and well being of families, couples and individuals.

      Looking forward to continuing the conversation.



  2. Katie Lemieux, LMFT on August 17, 2012 at 5:18 pm said:

    I couldn’t have said it better. Being a LMFT I am clear that what we do and the training we have creates magic for couples and families. Well said! Keep on keeping on helping our families!

    • Ronald B Cohen, MD on August 18, 2012 at 4:47 pm said:

      Hi Katie,

      Thanks for the encouragement. As we both know even so called individual disorders can benefit from relationship therapy, and that of course is the answer to your questions, “Have you been frustrated by the results of previous therapy? Are you wondering if there is anything that will work?” A study published in the August 15th issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that conjoint cognitive-behavioral couple therapy successfully treated both PTSD symptoms and enhanced intimate partner relationship satisfaction. The key may be having your partner there. “PTSD patients don’t do as well in individualized therapy,” says researcher Candice Monson, PhD, of Ryerson University in Toronto. “Social support emerges as the most robust factor that encourages recovery.”



  3. Kathy Hardie-Williams, MEd, MS, NCC,MFT on August 20, 2012 at 5:35 am said:

    I love what you was said about specialized training for couple and family therapists. It makes me realize that as a therapist trying to develop a private practice, I need to put more emphasis on my website regarding the specialized skills needed for family/couple therapy and that I have been trained from that perspective. I can’t imagine doing therapy any other way and yet, I consistently notice that other independent practitioners often are not trained in systems family therapy. Makes me proud to be a MFT!

    • Ronald B Cohen, MD on August 20, 2012 at 1:30 pm said:

      Hi Kathy,

      Kudos to you. I would strongly recommend highlighting your training and expertise with a unique knowledge and skill set based on a practical theoretical orientation. The nature of family therapy depends not on how many people are in the room but how the family’s difficulties are conceptualized. Patients get better quicker, relationships are repaired and multiple people improve functioning and emotional well-being. Working with the whole family is more time and cost effective than equal doses of individual treatment. The broad systemic impact reduces stress and vulnerability, fosters healing and growth, and empowers families to overcome persistent adversity.



  4. John Haynes on July 25, 2013 at 5:17 am said:

    The most important quality of a good therapist is his or her friendly manner. It is important to understand the emotions of a client while trying to solve their problems. Most of the family matters are emotion related. But the therapist should not take any decision emotionally.

    • Ronald B Cohen, MD on July 30, 2013 at 5:02 pm said:

      Hi John,

      Right you are. There is a big difference between expressing emotions and being emotionally reactive. Bowen Family Systems Therapy Coaching sessions are emotionally controlled yet nonetheless full of emotion. Betty Carter taught that, “The session is a consultation in which the therapist helps the client(s) to do self-treatment and to treat the family. Therapist and client talk about emotions and then the client expresses the feeling to the people in their lives.”



  5. Tiffany Locke on March 1, 2017 at 10:55 pm said:

    Including the whole family in resolving and improving what is going on is an excellent idea. Making sure that everyone knows what is going on and is able to work together would probably help them resolve things better. I would imagine that making sure you find a family counselor who is able to help guide you in finding the best resolution while also giving you the chance to work things out together could help you improve your relationship.

    • Ronald B Cohen, MD on March 17, 2017 at 9:54 am said:

      Hi Tiffany,

      Right you are.To quote William J Doherty, “Two dangers now face married people who seek therapy as individuals or as couples. The first danger is individually trained therapists who are incompetent in working with couples. The second is therapists, whether competent or not, whose individualistic value orientation leads them to undermine marital commitment when the marriage causes distress for an individual.” He suggests “Encourage consumers to ask other questions about therapists’ background, training, and outcomes in marital therapy. Examples include:

      • “Can you describe your background and training in marital therapy?” If the therapist is self-taught or workshop-trained, and can’t point to a significant education in this work, then consider going elsewhere.

      • “What percentage of your practice is marital therapy?” Consumer can avoid therapists who mostly do individual therapy.”

      As I wrote in my blog The Family Guy & The Relationship Doctor, “All families can benefit from relational therapy. The good news is if one motivated family member changes in the context of relationship dynamics, the entire family’s functioning improves. The goal is to change your relationships with other members of your family of origin to improve your life and your family’s life regardless of what anybody else does. Taking responsibility for what you can take responsibility for and attending to your needs in the context of intimate relationships, opens the door to facilitating healing of the entire family.”



Leave a Reply to Kathy Hardie-Williams, MEd, MS, NCC,MFT Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Bowen Family Systems Coaching

Bowen Family Systems Coaching with Ronald B Cohen, MD is the treatment of choice for complicated relationship problems and intergenerational conflicts. Include the whole family in resolving and improving what is going on right NOW! When the entire family works to make the difficult journey together, the results are almost magical.
To Learn More

Why Ronald B Cohen, MD?

If you are experiencing family relationship problems and distress, don’t treat all therapists alike. Look for a Family Therapist who has had specific training, is comfortable with emotional intensity and will offer clear direction to help resolve identified problems. Ronald B. Cohen, MD works with the whole family in a manner that can save you time and be more cost effective than equal doses of individual therapy.
To Learn More

For Mental Health Professionals

I offer both individual coaching and a consultation group to help facilitate the acquisition and further development of knowledge and expertise in Bowen Family Systems Theory and Coaching for the enhancement of clinical efficacy, productivity and satisfaction. If this is something you want to do professionally, and especially if you have not had significant training and experience in working with family dynamics and relationships, then experiential learning by doing is the best way to go.
To Learn More • 29 Barstow Road Suite 304 • Great Neck, NY 11021 • Phone:516.493.8946
Privacy Policy - General Disclaimer
© 2011 - 2013 Ronald B Cohen, MD