Getting to Know Family Counseling
Healthy communication is central to a healthy family. Family counseling can help families improve communication and enhance binds, while decreasing the chances of conflict and disagreement. Depending on the treatment plan determined by your clinician and the family, different members of the family may meet with the counselor together or separately. These types of therapies differ from traditional group or individual therapies in the sense that they focus on the family rather than on disorder behaviors and patterns in the individual.
To some in the mental health community, family therapy can be regarded as “strengths-based” with the goal of centering the focus on the individual strengths each individual brings to a family and the family dynamic.
Families that experience the following may wish to consider family therapy:
- One or more members with a mental health disorder
- The death or terminal diagnosis of a family member
- Families experiencing big life changes (e.g. divorce)
- High and constant conflict
- Developmental, behavioral, or physical challenges in a child
- The arrival into the family of a stepparent or new sibling
The “family” treated in these types of sessions can include close friends and extended family.
Family Therapy— The Benefits
When pursued consistently and diligently, family therapy can result in very positive results for a family. The benefits of family therapy can include:
- Establishing healthy boundaries that add to the safety and wellness of all members
- Reduced symptoms and improved functioning for individual family members
- Reduced conflict
- Learning to employ skills and techniques that resolve conflict more readily and quickly
- Improved communications about feelings and personal needs
- An improved sense of trust in the family
- The creation of dynamics that can stand trials and the test of time
The goal of family therapy is to make day-to-day life better for everyone in the family. As such, family members should understand that their therapist will not take sides in a conflict. Rather, the therapist works to give everyone involved the tools they need to function compassionately and effectively within the family unit.
Family therapy can take time. As such, families entering family therapy need to be willing to commit the time and do the work necessary. Everyone must be willing, too, to do their part.
Members of a family may wish to combine family therapy with individual therapy. This individual work can help family members work better in family therapy and, as a result, in the family as a whole.
What You Need to Know
How family therapy works varies from counselor to counselor and family to family. When structuring family therapy, the therapist needs to consider factors such as where each family member is located and everyone’s availability and preferences. Ideally, family members will spend five to 20 sessions working together as a family. The number and frequency of these sessions depends on the family’s dynamic and level of conflict.
Typically, in a first session, a counselor will ask questions with a goal of learning why each person feels counseling is needed for the family or what their goals are.
Subsequent session can involve:
- Identifying the strengths of individual family members
- Exploring the breakdown of communication
- Getting to know the family dynamic
- Exploring ways to engender positive change
- Giving each family member better coping skills
The ultimate goal of family therapy is to create a safe space for everyone involved. Contact our clinic today to discuss how family therapy can help your family.