Family Rituals and Family Therapy
Updated: Sep 28, 2019
When I was a child, I remember a quite literally sweet ritual that my father and I had. We would we porridge with a jam from the same plate, gradually discovering the cartoon drawing that was hidden at the bottom of the plate. Small as it may sound, from that ritual I learned a lot about the importance of sharing, patience, play, and reward. It was simple and primal way off connecting with my father, and with all the other children and parents in the previous generations.
From the dawn of human civilization, rituals were one of the main building blocks of society.
Rituals help in creating meaning and structure, provide a framework for connection, teach community values, mark important events, and provide a sense of belonging (Migliorini, Rania, Tassara, & Cardinali, 2016).
At this day and age, screens allow an easy way to replace the intimate sense of connection that previously could be experienced mainly only through in-person conversation. Marshall Machollhan (1966) talked about the fact that TV replaced the communal tribal fire; instead of listening to the elders’ stories when sitting around a fire, families got to used to gather around the shining light of TV, listening to stories together. However, screens gradually replaced direct human interaction; they are present during, or completely replace family dinners: “By eroding interpersonal skills, the mass media have undermined community in America, according to Michael Bugeja.” (Raphael, 2006, p. 864). I recently had a dinner with friends at a restaurant. The dinner lasted around an hour and a half, and I saw the kid’s face just for a few minutes; for the majority of it, I saw his legs on the wall, while he was playing a game on the phone.
Born and raised in Russia, I remember the saying “if you eat alone, you will die alone.” Besides the intensity of Russian sayings, this points to the importance of family rituals. Having a family dinner is much more than consuming food together. It is an intentional bonding time, a time and place to be together while sharing a pleasant activity.
When a family goes to family therapy, these meetings become a ritual by itself. It is a family meeting, with a specific intention of strengthening family bonds and discussing and working on issues that stand in the way. During therapy, it is essential to talk about the family’s or the couple’s rituals, and sometimes even discuss the creation of new rituals. As Gottman and Silver (Gottman & Silver, 2018) found in their research about couples, it is not enough to reduce the escalation cycle; it is also important to heighten the friendship and connection to create and sustain a strong and lasting relationship. Rituals are a powerful tool for creating bonding, and giving clients homework around rituals, can be a powerful therapeutic intervention. Of course, there is a need in cultural sensitivity; the therapist must make sure that the rituals will make sense given the cultural background of the clients. Beyond creating positive change, rituals are also a tremendous exploratory tool: Through them, it is possible to find out more about the family’s values and belief systems, as well as possibly seeing positive exceptions in the midst of sometimes chaotic relationships and harming communication patterns.
Sasha Raskin, MA, is an international #1 bestselling co-author , the founder and CEO of Go New , a transformational education program, a life, and business coach and a psychotherapist in Boulder, CO. He is working on a P.h.D in Counseling Education and Supervision and is an adjunct faculty at the Contemplative Counseling master’s program at Naropa University, from which he also graduated. Sasha has been in the mental health field for more than 10 years, worked with youth at risk, recovery, mental health hospitals, and coached individuals, couples, families, startups, and groups. He has created mindfulness stress reduction and music therapy programs within different organizations. Whether it’s in person or via phone/video calls, Sasha uses cutting-edge, research-based techniques to help his clients around the world to thrive.
As a coach Sasha Raskin provides individual and group coaching in Boulder, Colorado, and worldwide via video and phone calls. His services include: life coaching, business coaching, career coaching, ADD / ADHD coaching, leadership coaching, and executive coaching. Schedule your free 20-minute coaching phone consultation with Sasha Raskin
As a counselor in Boulder, CO, Sasha provides individual counseling in Boulder, CO , family therapy in Boulder, CO, and couples therapy in Boulder, CO, marriage counseling in Boulder, Colorado, and couples intensives / couples retreats, drawing from over ten years of clinical experience. Schedule your free 20-minute psychotherapy phone consultation with Sasha Raskin
Carpenter, E., & McLuhan, M. (1966). Explorations in communication. Oxford, England: Beacon Press.
Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (2018). The seven principles for making marriage work. London: Cassell Illustrated.
Migliorini, L., Rania, N., Tassara, T., & Cardinali, P. (2016). Family routine behaviors and meaningful rituals: A comparison between Italian and migrant couples. Social Behavior And Personality, 44(1), 9-18. doi:10.2224/sbp.2016.44.1.9
Raphael, C. (2006). Review of Interpersonal Divide: The search for community in a technological age. Journal Of Communication, 56(4), 864-866. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.2006.00326.x