I often say to patients who come with apparently intractable family problems that it is not selfish for them to concentrate on getting themselves into balance, because the changes in them will inevitably have a ripple-on effect on all the people around them. Often I see quite amazing improvements in the dynamics of a family as a result of the treatment of one of its members.
I witnessed one such change this week, when a patient, who
had spent the past 20 or so years of her life trying to cope with the trying
demands of her close-knit family, told me that over the past six months things
had changed to such an extent that the entangled relationships which had so far
made her feel so trapped were slowly resolving themselves. She is now strong enough to demand that
instead of bowing to her family’s needs they must now take her needs into
account. As a result, there has been a
change in all her relationships to her parents and siblings; with some she now feels much closer, with
others she has learnt to keep her distance. And their relationships with each other also appear to have changed for the better.
In effect, we could say that our work makes us into family therapists.