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At the Ülemiste Psychiatric Centre, a family therapist can help if you’re feeling discordant in your relationships.

At the Ülemiste Psychiatric Centre in the Ülemiste Health House, a family therapist can help if you are feeling disharmony in your relationships:

A form of therapy that heals through your close relationships. If you are feeling unhappy with your life and maybe don’t even know what exactly is out of order or missing, family therapy may help. Hedy Laidre, a psychologist and family therapist at the Ülemiste Psychiatric Centre, explains how to understand better when it’s time get family therapy.

According to Hedy, the most common indicator is a lack of harmony in close relationships. This includes fights, tensions between partners as well as between a child and a parent, and the desire for a closer relationship. “In addition to relationship problems, other common reasons for to choose family therapy include behavioural problems in young children, adolescent mental health problems, and various illnesses and symptoms in adults themselves,” she says. Family therapy is widely used around the world, and , says Hedy, fortunately the term has started to attract more and more attention in Estonia. “The responsibles overlooking this therapy form, the Estonian Association for Family Therapy and the Estonian School of Family Therapy, also have an important role to play,” she says. They have done a great deal of work in Estonia to bring family therapy knowledge and experience closer to the people”.

The family as a system

Family psychotherapy emerged in the second half of the 20th century when research into and treatment of schizophrenia patients and their families began. “At that point it was noticed that schizophrenic patients were getting good results in hospital, but when they were sent back home, the symptoms became intensified again. Initially it was thought to be influenced by the relationship between the patient and their mother, later the father was added to the mix, until finally it was aknowledged that the intergenerational relationship needed to be looked at,” says Hedy, adding that looking at family relationships is crucial. “A family is a system where all the family members are interconnected and a change in one member of the family brings about a change in the whole system and vice versa.” Hedy stresses that it is never her job to find the culprit, but instead to look at how a problematic situation has developed and what each family member can do to change the situation.

Ahaa- effect

Family therapy takes place in a safe and supportive environment, where it is important to go through therapy as a whole in order to achieve lasting change. To achieve results, a genogram or family scheme is drawn together with the client. “We look at three generations at a time. What are the relationships, the boundaries between subsystems, the hierarchy, the roles in the family and much more. Only facts are recorded in the genogram and from these a pattern emerges. As the issues people come to address are very different, the sessions are also structured according to objectives agreed with the family.” Through becoming aware of relational patterns that emerge from the genogram, clients experience an ah-ha effect, which leads them to the implementation of changes in their lives. Hedy calls herself a practitioner rather than a theoretician, having undergone family therapy herself. “I used to have migraines, since childhood, but thanks to family therapy I don’t have them anymore.”

A new trend

A large variety of people come to family therapy. For example, new couples who have had their first big fight. “In couple therapy, it’s often the first time partners experience grief together. They don’t run away as has usually happened. Often, showing their feelings has been scary experience for them in the past. This fear has its origins in childhood, but can be addressed in couple therapy,” she says. Young couples coming to therapy together is a recent trend, says Hedy. “People often ask how, both coming from different families, they make the relationship work between all their family members, so that their children will be well in the future. It’s nice to see that young families start noticing disharmony and ask for help instead of getting stuck in a difficult phase.”

Young people as co-therapists

But there are plenty of young people too. “Lately, we are seeing a lot of anxiety and also internet or social media addictions.” Hedy says that these days young people are so skilled and smart that they can become her co-therapists in sessions, because they can pinpoint exactly what needs to change in the family system. “I’m amazed at how they express themselves – for example, they say, ‘How can I love myself when my mum is fighting with my dad?’ They’re two of my closest relatives and if they can’t get along, how can I get along with myself? My role as a therapist is to help these conversations happen so that each family member can be heard and understood’.

You can only change yourself

However, it takes time for parents with young children to make the step to family therapy. “They feel a lot of guilt and shame because they think they are to blame for something. Or it seems to them that they have not made enough effort, and they may even fear that their behaviour has caused their child’s illness. I always praise parents for taking the step towards therapy.” Hedy says both emotional and behavioural problems are typical in young children.

Parents want to understand their young child better and know how to support them in the best possible way. “If a child has a diagnosis or other difficulties, it’s important to see beyond that. I’ve seen a lot of people getting stuck in a problematic situation with a young child. The parents then forget about their own needs, their couple relationship, and only focus on the child. It is important for the parents to hear someone say that the situation is not hopeless and that they are not to blame for the child’s illness. Everything that happens in families happens in relation to closeness and love. Some people have too much closeness and some people have too little”.

Before coming to a therapy session, people often think that in a close relationship the other needs to change. “However, you can only work on yourself, only you can change. But if you then change yourself, then the relationships around you will change. I often hear: please fix my child or take away this disease. But we need to look at how this disease has come into the system and what everyone can do to change this particular situation. Getting rid of such labels has been the first step to making change happen.” But it all starts with the very first step of going into therapy, which often proves to be the hardest one to take. “I recommend coming to an appointment, from there things will start to improve,” Hedy advises.

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If you are unable to attend the appointment or would like to reschedule, please notify us by email info@upk.ee no later than 2 working days before the appointment to receive full refund. In case of later notification you will be charged for the visit.