115 E 86th St, New York, NY 10028 (212) 794-6057

Family Therapy

Dr. Smerling’s family therapy work is tailored to meet the immediate and long-term needs of each family, through an understanding of the family dynamic. Utilizing a family systems approach that is inclusive and supportive, Dr. Smerling explores the balance of relationships in a family system, which are dynamic and constantly changing throughout the various life stages experienced by the family. Maintaining this balance requires increased client communication and conflict resolution, which may result in unexpected outcomes and realizations that change the course of the client’s therapy.

Family therapy is a very specialized skill set, and just as there are all kinds of families, there are also many different types of family therapy, such as the following:

  • Situational family therapy: Dr. Smerling aids families in a variety of acute and ongoing situational conflicts, including those experiencing the challenges of divorce or separation.
  • Special needs family therapy: Dr. Smerling has also had significant experience advising families of autistic children, and specializes in providing help for the siblings of those children.
  • Systemic family therapy: In this form of therapy, Dr. Smerling will take a look at your family’s behaviors and interactions, and provide insights into deep-rooted patterns that may be causing problems to arise.
  • Strategic family therapy: Dr. Smerling takes a more in depth approach into your family’s therapy and helps to develop problem-solving techniques that are specific to your family’s structure.

An Intro to Family Therapy


Have you envisioned your family in a therapy session before? What comes to mind? For many, they picture tension and awkwardness – perhaps clenched jaws, clutched couch cushions and a severe lack of eye contact. But family therapy does not have to be a cliché version of what is shown on television. Rather, taking that leap of faith towards therapy and repairing your family unit, working with Dr. Smerling’s personalized family therapy approach should be met with a sigh of relief and excitement to get to the root of your problems, end feelings of resentment and find solutions to rifts or deep-seated issues.

Truthfully, the hardest part of therapy is getting your family members to take that first step – even just conversing with your family that you feel therapy would be an appropriate next step can feel daunting. Many parents struggle to get their spouse and/or children through the door of the therapist’s office for that first consultation. If you’re in this situation, reaching out to Dr. Smerling online or by phone for some guidance on howis the first step to getting your family through the door.

Most family therapy sessions involve more than two people, and can include kids, teenagers, relatives, siblings, adult children, or even very close friends. If you’re in a relationship and you’re looking for couples therapy, learn more about our relationship counseling services.


Therapy is for All Kinds of Families


The word “family” can have a very different definition for each person, and they can look very different from one another. For example, some may feel that it involves only those related through blood or marriage, while others feel that their family includes anyone who has played a long-term, supportive role in their life. Whatever the case, therapy is for all kinds of family – whether you are related through blood, marriage, circumstances, or life events.

Dr. Smerling works with families as diverse of NYC itself, and she frequently works with families that have the following:

  • Adopted children
  • Same-sex parents
  • LGBTQ+ couples, relatives, or offspring
  • Separated or divorced parents
  • Stepfamilies
  • Members that do not live under the same roof

Therapy is for Adult Children, Too


It’s an unfortunate misconception that family counseling is only for school-age children or teenagers. The fact of the matter is that adult children and parents need help at times, too. Some adults struggle with caring for aging relatives – such as parents and grandparents. Some parents struggle with maintaining a balanced role in their adult children’s lives. Whatever the situation may be, Dr. Smerling has experience working with families of all kinds, including grown children that are seeking to improve their relationship with their parent/s, and vice versa.


How to Get Started with Family Therapy


As mentioned, the hardest part may be getting your family members to agree to therapy. Once all are on board, take the following next steps to getting started:

1) Book a Consult: This can be done online, or you can call Dr. Smerling’s office to make this initial appointment over the phone. It can also be virtual or in person, depending upon your scheduling needs and level of comfort.

2) The First Appointment: This will undoubtedly be a monumental step for your family in the direction towards healing and repairing broken bonds or rifts. This is a time where Dr. Smerling can get to know all of you, and for your family to get to know her as your therapist and helper.

3) Plan for Future Sessions: Just as Rome was not built in one day, nor will your family be healed within the first several sessions. Although you will certainly note progress, it could take many more appointments before you really start to identify patterns, work on a course of action, and see improvements in your family unit. You can book as many or as few sessions as you would like, and of course, Dr. Smerling will make herself as available to your family and your scheduling needs as she possibly can.

If you’re ready to get started, book a consultation on our website, or reach out to Dr. Smerling directly with any questions or concerns.


Family Therapy FAQ


What are the goals and benefits of family therapy?

Family counseling, or family therapy, is a method used to help families return to a healthy and fully functional state. Ultimately, the goal is to identify any problems within your family unit, and address those problems, whether they be emotional, behavioral or psychological. The benefits include a happier home life, stronger bond between family members, and an overall sense of growth and peace for each individual.

What are the stages of family therapy?

Family therapy can be broken up into four main stages: preparation & commitment, process & transition, change & consolidation, and finally, termination. The first stage of preparation and commitment involves accepting that there are problems that exist, defining what those problems are and forming the goals that you will be striving towards. Within the process and transition phase, you are starting to actively build towards healing by working towards your goals, putting what you’re learning into action and actively making changes based on your therapy sessions. In the change and consolidation phase, at this point you are invested in your therapy and making significant changes to benefit both your family and yourself. And lastly, within the termination phase, you are ready to end your journey with therapy and continue to work with your family outside of your therapist’s office.

What are the types of family therapy?

There are many different types of therapy that can be geared towards your own unique family. Below are the more popular types of family therapy and counseling:

  • Structural therapy
  • Strategic therapy
  • Systemic therapy
  • Situational therapy

How do I prepare for family therapy?

Communication is a great first step to prepare your family for therapy. Speak to your children and teenagers about why you’re going into therapy. Be open and honest with them about the topics you want to discuss at your appointments. Ask them if there’s anything they want to bring to the table, and how they feel about working with a therapist. Know what you’d like to discuss before you go to each session. And of course, if you feel your child may benefit from one-on-one sessions as opposed to therapy in a group setting, be open to that option and learn about possible child and young adult therapy services for your son or daughter.

What are reasons to seek family therapy?

There isn’t always just one reason to seek family therapy. Many times, there can be several big reasons, or it can simply stem from a feeling that something in your family dynamic isn’t working, such as a lack of overall communication and connection. Just as every family is different, so are each family’s reasoning to seek therapy.

Below are some common reasons that families choose to go to therapy:

  • Divorce or separation of parents
  • Domestic violence
  • Verbal abuse
  • Loss of trust
  • New family member in the home, such as through the birth of a sibling, adoption or fostering
  • Substance abuse or eating disorders
  • Major trauma, such as the death of a loved one, moving to a new home, or a natural disaster

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