Is Family Counseling Right For Us?
Families are as diverse in their makeup as the individuals who compose their fabric; but some patterns mesh less well together than with others (which is actually the basis for “reality” TV). In actual reality, conflict in families is normal—and can even be healthy when expressed in moderation. No family is argument-free, and for those who are, it may be more symptomatic of a communication rupture.
But high conflict in families can adversely affect each member of the unit, creating more than simply division, but also, having a negative impact on mental health. Listed below are eight common issues that family counseling is used to address:
Common Issues That Family Counseling & Therapy Can Address
- High marital conflict: developing strategies to resolve at-each-other’s-throats conflict and taking a breather from life stressors to repair your romantic connection; reminding children that they are loved, not to be blamed, and creating a safe space for children to articulate their complex emotions
- Financial disagreements & hardship: Simply living is expensive. Add children to the mix, and the costs are exorbitant! Learn how to set limits to the piggy bank of mom and dad, reach a consensus with your spouse about your collective spending budget, and learn how to say “No” to that one family member / friend whom we all have …
- Disagreements over parenting styles: Halt disagreements over “Good Cop” vs. “Bad Cop” parenting and get on the same discipline page with your partner and your kids; establish effective routines for homework, bedtime, & chores, and infusing fun into the mix
- Divorce & Blended Families (when a new family is blended together through the remarriage of one or both spouses): how to break the news of your separation to the kids and supporting children through the grieving process; reduction of chaos: how to reorganize everyday life and effective parenting when you live separately; learning how to navigate remarriage and the nuances of blending together two dissimilar family units
- Parent vs. Adolescent Conflict: from the terrible twos to the teenage years: how to escape parenting without acquiring a body count; recognizing warning signs that your child may be in crisis; striking a balance between empowering your adolescent to make their own decisions and instituting firm boundaries
- Academic/Behavioral problems of a child in school: Learn how to spot the warning signs of ADHD, intellectual/developmental disabilities, dyslexia, and specific learning disorders; help your child to self-motivate vs. self-defeat in the classroom; and address problematic opposition from your child toward his educator (or vice versa)
- Differences in core values & beliefs: liberal vs. conservative, Christian vs. atheist, LGBTQ+ vs. alignment with a culture that disapproves of gender and sexual minorities … The list of potential discrepancies is endless! – but divergent views don’t have to drive a wedge into your familial relationship: Learn how to achieve common ground without knocking each other down.
- Mental Health & Chronic Illness: How to cope with and support a family member through a mental health concern (substance abuse, depression, eating disorders, mood disturbances, etc.), a chronic illness (when a family member receives a diagnosis of cancer, Alzheimer’s, cystic fibrosis, etc.), or another medical condition (stroke, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury etc.)
How Can Family Counseling & Therapy Improve Our Familial Bond?
Most family differences are reconcilable – although there are exceptions regarding forms of domestic abuse; or the physical and/or sexual abuse of children. We can help families recover after these situations also; but sometimes, for the safety of the family, separation from an abusive family member is necessary. However, under more ordinary circumstances, family therapy can be executed in joint (most common) or in separate, individual sessions. But regardless of the method of execution, the overarching goals of family counseling are similar. Your therapist will:
- Help you identify sources of conflict and communication breakdown & brainstorm strategies that are customized to improve your family’s interactions
- Help you view your family as a cohesive unit, where the sum of the parts (members) is indistinguishable from the whole (family). Assessing your family in this manner can help you to avoid placing blame on any one family member for their actions and help you to focus on enhancing your family’s collective strengths
- Assist each family member to modify their behavior as appropriate to reduce conflict
- Employ supplemental therapies as recommended, for example: Marriage Counseling (for high conflict marital couples), Divorce Counseling (to aid the family unit in processing and reorganizing after spouses separate), Blended Families Counseling (to address issues related to blending families during remarriage), or Individual Counseling (to tackle issues such as substance abuse, eating disorders, depression, etc.)
- Remind you how to appreciate each other once more and channel your energies toward the positives, such as reserving opportunities for quality time spent together!