What is Family Counseling?
This is a form of psychotherapy that involves using strategies and techniques to reduce distress and conflict in a family unit by improving how the different members interact with each other. Even the healthiest of families can experience problems which may result in frustration or pain if not dealt with promptly. For better or worse, families often bring up the most intense emotions that individuals can experience.
A major factor that distinguishes family counseling from individual therapy is that it has a focus on perspective or framework rather than how many individuals are present at the counseling session. So while some therapists may require all family members who are affected by the issue to be present in the room, it isn’t always necessary (or even possible). In this type of therapy, family counselors view the problems as ‘systems’ or patterns that need to be adjusted. They don’t view the issue as residing within the person.
Family relationships are important for an individual’s good mental health whether or not all the members of the family are taking part in the counseling. Modern family therapists define family as anyone who plays a long-term supportive role in an individual’s life. By this definition, a family doesn’t have to mean blood relatives or even family members in the same house.
Who Can Benefit From Family Counseling?
Family counseling is an ideal method for helping family members to cope with one of the family who is struggling with a serious medical issue, mental health diagnosis, or addiction. It’s also a very effective way of helping to reduce conflict and improve communication.
There is so much that can happen in families and counseling can help resolve issues from small annoyances to dramatic arguments, and buried resentment. Counseling can even help to resolve disappointment, guilt and even feelings of anger that we didn’t even know we had.
Other Reasons to Seek Family Counseling Include:
- Children having problems at school, experiencing eating disorders or substance abuse
- A major trauma that impacts the family such as the loss of a loved one through death, divorce, or incarceration
- Adjustment to a new family member in the home, for example, the adoption of a child or the birth of a sibling
- Domestic violence, parent conflicts
- Divorce or separation
Which Family Counselors Are Right For You?
Family counseling requires an extremely specialized skillset and individuals seeking treatment should find a counselor who has both the credentials and the training that qualifies them to practice this type of therapy. Marriage Family Therapists (MFT) all have to do family counseling during their training. Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) are also usually trained in family therapy.
Expected Outcomes of Family Therapy
Family therapy helps to develop and maintain healthy boundaries as well as to foster communication and cohesion among family members. This helps to reduce conflicts within the family. A good course of family counseling also understands the family dynamics well and promotes problem-solving while building understanding and empathy.
When problems within the family are addressed as they surface, most times they don’t turn into anything more serious, but if they aren’t handled in a timely manner then they may become even bigger issues in the future. This is the reason family-of-origin concerns are frequently dealt with as part of individual therapy.