Healing Intergenerational Trauma through Family Therapy

By Lisa Savage | Mar 4, 2023

Intergenerational trauma is a complex and pervasive issue that can significantly impact families. It refers to transmitting traumatic experiences and their effects from one generation to another. This can include a range of backgrounds, such as abuse, neglect, violence, addiction, and poverty. Intergenerational trauma can have long-lasting effects on individuals and families, often leading to patterns of dysfunction, disconnection, and relational difficulties. However, family therapy can be a powerful tool for healing intergenerational trauma and promoting resilience and growth within families.

What is Intergenerational Trauma?

Intergenerational trauma refers to the emotional and psychological wounds passed down from generation to generation. This can occur in various ways, such as through direct trauma experiences, trauma’s effects on parenting and attachment, and cultural and historical traumas that impact entire communities. Intergenerational trauma can result in various challenges, including mental health disorders, substance abuse, relationship difficulties, and emotional regulation.

How Does Family Therapy Help?

Family therapy is a therapeutic approach that works with families to address issues and improve communication, relationships, and functioning. Family therapy can be particularly effective for addressing intergenerational trauma because it focuses on the family as a unit rather than on individual members alone. This allows for exploring and healing relational patterns and dynamics that contribute to intergenerational trauma.

Family therapy can also help to promote resilience within families by strengthening communication, increasing coping skills, and fostering supportive relationships. This can be especially important in families affected by intergenerational trauma, as it can help break dysfunctional cycles and promote positive family dynamics.

Critical Approaches in Family Therapy for Intergenerational Trauma

Several critical approaches in family therapy can be practical for addressing intergenerational trauma:

  1. Narrative therapy: This approach focuses on exploring and re-framing families’ stories about themselves and their experiences. By examining and reshaping these stories, families can gain a new perspective on their lives and relationships.
  2. Structural family therapy focuses on examining and changing the patterns and roles within a family system that contribute to dysfunction and trauma.
  3. Attachment-based family therapy: This approach focuses on understanding and improving attachment patterns within families, which can help to promote healthy relationships and emotional regulation.
  4. Emotionally focused family therapy: This approach promotes emotional awareness and regulation within families, which can help promote healthy communication and relationships.


Intergenerational trauma can be challenging and complex, but family therapy can be a powerful tool for promoting healing and growth within families. By working together to explore and address relational patterns and dynamics, families can break cycles of dysfunction and encourage positive change. If you or someone you know is struggling with intergenerational trauma, consider contacting a family therapist for support and guidance.


Lisa Savage

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