About the Society for Couple and Family Psychology

Family psychology is a specialty in professional psychology that is focused on the emotions, thoughts, and behavior of individuals, couples, and families in relationships and in the broader environment in which they function. It is a specialty founded on principles of systems theory, with the family as a system being of most central focus. The premise of practice in this specialty is that family dynamics play a vital role in the psychological functioning of family members. This applies to extended families as well as nuclear families. The practice of family psychology takes into consideration as well the family’s history and current environment (e.g., family history, ethnic culture, community, school, health care system, and other relevant sources of support or difficulty). Family psychologists strive to understand issues presented by persons to be served not only from the perspective of the presenter(s) but as well through understanding the contexts in which these issues have developed. 

Within this framework family therapists might see:
  • Individuals
  • Couples
  • Families
  • Work groups
  • Community groups of all kinds
  • Organized systems
Clinical problems that family psychology addresses are:
  • Relationship issues between individuals who are coupled
  • Schooling problems of youngsters
  • Behavioral problems of children or adolescents
  • Parenting problem
  • Adaptational challenges of caring for a family member with a serious psychological or chronic health problem
  • Work-related problems of one or more adults in a family
  • Managing the aging problem of a family member or relative
  • Problems in relationships between a sub-set of family members
  • Problems in communications between two or more persons
  • Relationship disturbances based on misperceptions
Typical procedures and techniques used by family psychologists may include as appropriate:
  • Evidence based treatments
  • Systems interventions (including family therapy) from a wide array of emphases
  • Network therapy
  • Couples therapy
  • Group therapy and work group therapy
  • Consultation with external authorities such as school professionals, primary and chronic care physicians, juvenile authorities and the courts
  • Supervision of various workers concerned with resolving the presenting issues

The Practice of Family Psychology

The practice of family psychology is not limited to a particular set of problems, but rather, the distinctiveness of the specialty is based upon the theory from which family psychologists think about a problem and work with their clients to solve it. Family psychology addresses the broad array of Axis I, II, and III problems as well as relational problems.

Family psychology is sometimes thought to be synonymous with family therapy, a subcategory of family psychology; Family psychology uses a broad, developmental perspective to understand health and illness or problems. Family therapy is a systems-based approach to intervening with these problems.