Family Counseling 101: 3 Things To Know

Family counseling aims to help families work through issues together and heal psychological and emotional wounds that are hurting each member

Family counseling session

Family dynamics play an important role in how people interact with their peers. When you have a harmonious relationship with your parents and siblings, you most probably know how to cultivate and preserve the same healthy pattern in your social circle.

The consequences of poor conflict Management

As children grow, their awareness of the world expands. In turn, they develop their own views and insights about certain matters. Suppose your parents can’t understand your changed beliefs; this could result in hurtful interactions between you and them. When your differences clash, conflict will likely spring up. And if left unaddressed, ongoing conflict can trigger the most intense emotions.

Similarly, if your family is struggling due to cross-generational beliefs, this can lead to tension and arguments. If younger family members can’t voice out or talk about their opinions without having a screaming contest with older relatives, this can bring dysfunction to the household.

On the other hand, when parents frequently fight, children can’t have the right positive environment to develop good behaviors and appropriate emotional responses. Likewise, parents who fight all the time might fail to cater to their young children’s emotional and physical needs.

Kids need to form an appropriate attachment to their primary caregivers or parental figures in order for them to grow as healthy and functional adults. Unfortunately, inadequate care and attention can negatively impact their psychological wellbeing and development.

According to studies, those deficits are associated with teenage delinquency, resulting in behavioral and conduct problems. A study conducted by the US National Library of Medicine claims that children who are left to cry themselves out, experiences intense emotions, and have limited opportunity to explore the world can’t fully develop stable personalities.

All the examples mentioned can take a toll on your loved ones’ mental health. Sadly, those are just some of the many consequences that could occur due to poor conflict management.

The basics of family counseling

You can’t choose the family you’re born into, and sometimes, family conflicts can be difficult to manage alone. For that reason, struggling families might want to consider working with a trained and licensed therapist. Family counseling is a wonderful and worthwhile option for families to get through struggles constructively and productively.

Family therapy is led by a psychologist, clinical social worker, or licensed family therapist. General family counselors handle various types of conflicts among people living together. Since counselors have to tackle numerous issues that’ll warrant different solutions, they’re required to pursue higher education and go through extensive training in school or in other accredited learning institutes.

On another note, you can always work with a family therapist who specializes in tackling specific family issues. The therapist’s job is to talk to everyone and ask some questions to get an overview of the history of the conflict and how the family has been attempting to handle matters so far. Those questions are important to help the therapist know how each member sees the problem. Getting to know each other is crucial to establish rapport, extend empathy, uncover deeply rooted issues, and identify useful techniques to address them.

The whole counseling duration is often short-term, approximately 12 sessions. How often you meet with your counselor might depend on the involved family members’ availability and willingness to participate.

Treatment programs will also vary depending on the family’s situation or the specific concerns you’ve all decided to communicate and resolve in therapy. If you’re worried about the costs, you can ask your health insurance company if they cover family counseling treatment.

Family counseling or family therapy tackles a broad range of issues. Therapists employ a mix of proven techniques and exercises from behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy, among many others.

Generally, this type of group therapy helps couples, new parents, children, and extended family members learn to understand their differences and communicate properly to patch up conflicts. It’s also important to take note that the term ‘family’ doesn’t simply refer to blood relatives. It also includes attachment figures, caregivers, distant relatives, and other long-term supportive people in the household.

Family counseling expectations

Family therapy has long received plenty of buzz and praise. Your friends and relatives might even suggest for you and your family to try it. Specialists even recommend families in crisis to reach out to and work with a therapist.

However, if you’re still wondering whether or not it’s the right option for you and your loved ones, below are three important things to know about family counseling.

1. It can improve relationship dynamics

All seems right in the world when you’re surrounded by people who support you, respect you, make you feel heard, and encourage you to share your troubles. However, no family is always stable and happy. Whether or not they tell their friends and relatives about it, every family has gone through crises or is privately facing challenges.

Some families might seek therapy to address major transitions. Suppose one of your divorced parents marries another person. You might have to adjust to living with a new stepparent. If this event has been the reason for ongoing family conflict, therapy can help ease the transition for you and your loved ones.

Your family can find ways to respect each other’s feelings and extend compassion to one another. Your counselor can also introduce alternatives alongside guiding your family to develop a concrete and fair solution for the good of the majority. Furthermore, you’d be able to get to know family members even more and talk about certain uncomfortable matters you’ve been avoiding for a long time.

All those may seem quite awkward, especially with the presence of another person. However, going through such issues with the aid of a professional can greatly benefit you.

Family counselors have their clients’ best interests at heart. If you’re uncomfortable with the thought of sharing your problems with a stranger, you can look for and work with credible and experienced therapists.

For instance, some sites have licensed counselors and mental health providers dedicated to working with families struggling with a wide range of issues. In some cases, it takes a professional for families to open up and voice out their concerns.

2. It can address varying family problems

Apart from resolving big conflicts, family therapy can support families going through tough times. For instance, counseling can help families who are dealing with a recent tragedy. A therapist can help grieving individuals get enough support to sort out the emotional impact brought by the traumatic event.

Going to therapy as a unit can help family members learn healthy coping strategies to bring them closer together. When successful, all these will allow the family to accept and heal from the sudden unfortunate event and grow stronger.

Furthermore, family counseling can enlighten members so they can understand mentally ill loved ones better. With adequate knowledge, families will be able to navigate difficult times together.

For instance, if a relative has been recently diagnosed with a serious medical condition like Parkinson’s disease, family counseling can give you insights into your loved one’s treatment and vulnerability. It can prepare you for upcoming events, household changes, and shifts in priorities to cater to the needs of your ill loved one.

Similarly, family counseling can help someone understand their loved ones who are battling drug addiction. Family therapy is done in conjunction with residential treatment, medication, and individual counseling.

Other common issues that are covered in family therapy include:

  • LGBTQIA+-related problems
  • Major trauma caused by domestic violence, natural disasters, suicide, and the like
  • Chronic illness
  • Academic struggles of children
  • Behavioral problems of adolescents
  • Financial distress and disagreements
  • Planning shared custody
  • Infertility
  • Infidelity
  • Marital abuse

Family counseling covers everything from minor to major emotional, behavioral, and psychological issues that significantly affect relationship dynamics. At times, addressing minor problems ahead is practical so these issues won’t grow and affect other important areas of your and your family’s lives.

Facing issues as a unit can also remove some of the burden from your loved ones and improve their mental well-being. Looking into how often certain issues come up can help you know whether or not it’s time to seek family therapy.

3. It teaches you and your loved ones new skills

Primarily, family counseling doesn’t magically or automatically resolve major disagreements. However, similar to any kind of mental health counseling, going to a family therapy session can make a huge difference in the long run.

Families have their accustomed ways of interacting and communicating. If these are unproductive, your therapist can help introduce new healthy ways of opening up and interacting with another. As a result, you and your loved ones will be able to change the way you talk to each other. Over time, this can help the household rebuild connections.

During counseling, you’ll get to know family members better and discover their strengths and low points. Such information would guide you and your loved ones in crafting a solution to manage conflicts, even when you’ve already completed your treatment plan. Those new insights can help the household face and overcome challenges as a unit rather than passing the blame from one person to another.

During therapy, you’ll all identify family roles and rules to spot patterns that contribute to growing tension or deeply rooted issues. From harbored grudges and huge disappointments, you’ll unearth all sorts of problems and process them. Along the way, you might even discover your family’s strengths and ability to iron out conflicts in a healthy manner.

Suppose a loved one feels like an outcast. The goal of therapy would then be to teach applicable skills and techniques when it comes to expressing verbal support and affection. The therapist can show each member of the family the importance of empathy, strengthening ties, and family appreciation.

The main goal of family therapy

How much family therapy can benefit you depends on your family’s situation and willingness to resolve matters.

Generally, the objective of family counseling is to determine and address problems within a family as a unit. The approaches involved in this type of group therapy take inspiration from the family system model.

This framework implies how families function in systems, not individually or independently of each other. Unlike individual counseling, family counseling sees problems as patterns that need to be adjusted so the unit can move forward and function as a whole.

In turn, when the major family problem is properly addressed, the resulting outcome doesn’t only affect one member but also significantly impacts other members of the unit. When successful, therapy can restore relationship dynamics, allow for better communication, and help families function healthily in society.

Why it is time to seek family therapy

To some extent, disagreements and minor arguments in the family can be healthy. They encourage members to learn to extend empathy, cultivate a judgment-free environment, be more loving, and be open to understand where the other person’s coming from.

Of course, how a family handles disagreements and arguments makes all the difference in their mental health and wellbeing. Conflicts that are resolved in a mature way can even show children how to manage disagreements healthily and appropriately.

Nearly all families deal with some sort of dysfunction at some point. However, when the conflict has become emotionally draining and causes tension and withdrawal among family members, that’s where family therapy becomes helpful.

While some people initially think that going to therapy is similar to admitting failure, attending family counseling sessions is highly advantageous. Family therapy might not assure you that everything would go back to the way it was, but this approach is the first step that could help you regain the closeness you and your family once had.

If you’re thinking of going to family therapy, you can also ask your insurance provider if family therapy is covered by the policy. In this way, the total costs won’t be a burden to you, especially if you’re struggling financially.

Final thoughts

In a nutshell, family counseling aims to enable families to work through problems together and heal psychological and emotional wounds that are hurting each member.

While it doesn’t automatically resolve family disagreements or make unpleasant situations go away, therapy can help you and your loved ones in many ways. Think of it as an additional resource and tool to help you interact, understand, and become a better team player moving forward.

When families are able to resolve and overcome challenges through therapy, they can develop stronger ties, foster trust, communicate better, and start a new chapter together. Not only will this benefit your family, but it can also have a positive influence on your loved ones’ mental health.


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