Doing Family Therapy as a New Social Worker: The Do's and Don'ts

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So helpful

This is wonderful, Mercedes. I especially like the parts about don't underestimate counter-transference and don't chase chaos. These are really key for all of us, but especially easy to fall into when you're starting out.

Sharon Martin, LCSW more than 7 years ago

Thank you!

Thanks so much for reading the article, Sharon! I agree that counter-transference can be difficult to manage when working with families! And, yes to not not chasing chaos. Glad the article resonated with you!

Mercedes Samudio more than 7 years ago

do and don't of family therapy

I love the article it's brakes down the job I'm hoping to do soon. I'm in graduate schoolers now and you are being trained to go out and save families. I now have a new appreciation for family and my ability to help based on your do's and don't
Thank you

grad student more than 7 years ago


Hi! I am happy that the article shed some light on what you'll be doing as you get out into the field after graduating. I would reframe what you said about being trained to go "go out and save families." I think that when we have this mindset it sets you and the family up for failure. Instead, I would go into this work with families with the perspective that you are a guide to helping the family become sustainable system on their own. Or, to put it more concisely, you are there to empower the family. Best of luck to you in your graduate program and in your career! And, thank you for reading!

Mercedes Samudio more than 7 years ago

social work vs family therapy

Social work with families is different than family therapy. Being grounded in family systems work and trained in how to work with family interactions is critical. It is not the same as group work.

Judy Bjorke more than 7 years ago

Thanks for reading!

You are so, so, so very correct, Judy! That is why I wrote this article: to help social workers begin to differentiate between group, individual, and couples work. Understanding that family have their own unique systems is essential to doing family work. I think that social work with families (i.e., case management, linkage referrals, community outreach) and family therapy actually go hand in hand a lot of the time. If we don’t triage a family’s needs, it is very difficult to actually conduct any form of therapeutic intervention. When a social worker has managed a family’s immediate need (housing, academic concerns, financial stability, etc.) then they can begin to utilize the family therapy interventions (such as the Satir method or Structural Family Therapy). Thus, in my opinion, while family therapy and social work with a family are indeed different, a social worker needs to be well versed in meeting the family’s need with both interventions to be successful at helping the family overall. Thanks so much for your insightful comment!

Mercedes Samudio more than 7 years ago

family secrets

exposing family secrets usually an issue not forwarded as a problem by families needing social work intervention can be a temptation for new workers. brings these explosive issues to supervision before doing anything including not active engaging family with issues they have not requested help for.

michael lopez more than 7 years ago

Thanks for reading!

I completely agree, Michael! It can be tempting to just "fix" a family because you have a bird's eye view of the issues. But, that could be harmful to a family who do not have the coping or communication skills to address intense experiences or traumatic events. I believe that the best way to approach this is to talk to a supervisor (whether you're a new social worker or not) and make sure that you have safety plans in place so that when things hit the proverbial fan you have some support. I also feel that this is exactly why I wrote this article: to look at some of the foundational things that we need to do as family therapists before we delve into the more intense issues in a family. Thanks so much for reading the article and for your thoughtful insights!

Mercedes Samudio more than 7 years ago

Family therapy

Excellent read and incredibly relevant. As an in-home family therapist I agree with all of these sentiments. There should be more training in family therapy for new social workers.

chanel h. more than 8 years ago

Thank you!

Thanks for reading the article! I'm glad that the post was relevant to your role as a family therapist. This is my passion - working with families - and I agree that we need more training in working with families. I think it is especially needed for a clinician doing in home family therapy because there are a lot of dynamics that happen in a home that don't occur in a therapy office.

Mercedes Samudio more than 8 years ago

Great Info

Thanks for the reminders of what is important when treating families! Good article.

E Hall more than 8 years ago

Thank you!

Thank you for reading the article and for the kind words.I'm happy that the topic was relevant for you!

Mercedes Samudio more than 8 years ago

Great Read

I really enjoyed your article. It was clear, informative and relatable. Thank you and I look forward to reading more!

Lisa Crilley, MA, MFTi more than 8 years ago


Thanks for reading, Lisa! I'm glad that you liked the article and that the topic was relevant for you!

Mercedes Samudio more than 8 years ago

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