This study aimed to explore participant experiences of systemic family therapy for youths with functional disorders. After completing family therapy, eight youths and thirteen parents participated in qualitative interviews. The analysis was based on interpretative phenomenological analysis and identified two main themes. The first theme was: ‘Challenges of creating meaning and understanding of child symptoms in family therapy’, with symptom understanding and explanation found to be important, though sometimes challenging, themes in therapy. The second theme was: ‘Clinical encounters in family therapy promote dialogue’, which included the finding that the family therapy setting with joint sessions for family members facilitated in-family communication. Practitioner points: Addressing family dynamics during therapy can be experienced as an invasion of the family domain Symptom explanations should avoid any suggestion of blame and remove feelings of guilt, be relatable and meaningful and point to solutions for the family Systemic family therapy can support empowering processes for families of youths with functional disorders.
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