What is “Family of Origin Work” in Therapy?
Have you ever heard people mention doing “family of origin work” in the context of psychotherapy? Do you know what that term refers to? This blog article explores exactly this! Essentially, family of origin work is a therapeutic focus that delves into the intricacies of an individual’s family history, examining how early life experiences shape one’s present-day thoughts, behaviors, feelings, and relationships.
As you can imagine, our psychological and emotional development is heavily influenced by the system or systems in which we are raised. Typically, this means our immediate family and home life growing up. Let’s take a closer look at this process and how doing family of origin work in therapy can be beneficial.
Defining “Family of Origin Work”
Family of origin work refers to the exploration and understanding of an individual’s early family experiences, dynamics, and relationships. The “family of origin” typically refers to the family in which a person is raised—their parents, siblings, and other significant caregivers. In therapy, a skilled clinician will help a client examine these early experiences and connect the dots to how they operate in the world in the present tense. This is often done in a semi-structured way where the therapist and client collaboratively and curiously review these early family dynamics in a validating and nonjudgmental way.
Building Self-Awareness and Uncovering Patterns and Behaviors
An examination of one’s family history is often helpful in identifying the source of recurring patterns and behaviors that may have been learned or adapted during childhood. As the saying goes, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”. This illustrates the power of modeling where children observe those around them and adopt ways of operating in the world, whether it’s walking or talking or any number of human behaviors. Being raised in a family that is critical, shaming, or abuses substances, can often normalize these behaviors as okay and permissible.
In therapy, unspoken rules can be identified and examined for how helpful they are in the client’s current life. For example, growing up in a dysfunctional family with alcoholism, and addiction, a person may learn “don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel”. One client I worked with realized in their family system, there was no such thing as boundaries. She was able to learn that boundaries are healthy and important for her mental health.
Clients also learn about the origins of various behavioral patterns.
For example, individuals with trust issues may have been brought up by parents who did not follow through with their words or were unreliable. Those who are overly responsible and codependent may realize this was the result of being raised by emotionally immature parents. In therapy, another client mistakenly realized they learned early on that feelings are to be held back and avoided.
Clients adopt many maladaptive patterns from their family of origin experiences that include insecure attachment styles, secret-keeping, perfectionism, poor boundaries, lack of personal accountability, substance use and eating disorders, body image issues, and more. Of course, clients also adopt positive attributes from being raised in their family systems, and these are important to recognize as well. By understanding these patterns, individuals can gain insight into how their past experiences influence their present actions and reactions.
Healing Emotional Wounds
Family of origin work aims to address unresolved emotional wounds from the past. After sufficient exploration of one’s upbringing and increased self-awareness, these emotional and psychological traumas that were identified can now be healed. There are numerous therapeutic approaches to this—our practice often practices EMDR therapy for the adaptive reprocessing of these early experiences.
EMDR has been practiced around the world for the past 30 years or so and is based on the idea that current dysfunction stems from insufficiently-processed, maladaptively stored disturbing memories from the past. Essentially, when a person experiences a traumatic event or something that is beyond the capacity of their brain to process at the time, parts of the experience get stuck causing them to encounter problems down the road. See our page on EMDR Therapy for more, in-depth information.
With the help of a safe, trusted, and skilled clinician, clients can resolve old wounds and reprocess stuck emotions and body sensations that are at the root of their psychological difficulties.
Begin Working With a Trauma Therapist in Delray Beach, FL
Family of origin work is a transformative journey that encourages individuals to unearth the roots of their emotional landscape. By revisiting and understanding the past, individuals can navigate their present with greater self-awareness, resilience, and the tools needed to foster healthier relationships. In therapy with our team of caring therapists, family of origin work becomes a powerful approach to personal growth and healing. You can start your therapy journey with Mangrove Therapy Group by following these steps:
Other Services Offered with Mangrove Therapy
EMDR therapy isn’t the only service offered by the team at Mangrove Therapy Group. Our therapists are experts in treating trauma and PTSD/C-PTSD, substance use disorders, eating disorders, body image issues, anger management, anxiety, low self-esteem, personality disorders, and much more. Please feel free to learn more about how we can support you. We also offer support with addictions such as process addictions, grief and loss, EMDR, “Failure to Launch” syndrome, CBT, and DBT. Feel free to learn more by visiting our blog or FAQ page to learn more today!