What is Family Therapy Counseling?
Family therapy counseling is founded on the idea that a family is a system composed of different yet connected parts. A change in any one part of the system can trigger and produce changes in all the other connected parts. This means that when one family member is affected by a health disorder such as an addiction or mental illness, all of the family is affected. This commonly translates to unhealthy changes in the family dynamics in the form of lies and secrets building up within the family. Some members of the family might assume too much responsibility, others act out, and some members of the family simply shut down. Soon it’s not unusual to have a family remain stuck, exhibiting unhealthy patterns, even after the family member with the original problem moves into recovery.
Family therapy can be effective in helping a family as a whole get ‘unstuck’, recover and heal. Family therapy is a form of counseling designed to improve communication and resolve conflicts within members of a family. Family therapy is usually provided by a clinical social worker or licensed therapist. A “family” member can be anyone having a long-term role of support in a person’s life and this is not restricted to people living in the same household or blood relations. Family counselors don’t decide who should be in family therapy, they rely on the client to identify who is important to them. Sometimes family members live together, sometimes not. Regardless, if a person is viewed as family by the individual in treatment, they’re accepted as family in the counseling session..
Family relations are regarded as important for healthy mental wellness, even if not all the family members are involved in the counseling sessions. Within the framework of counseling it’s considered ideal for families to understand the struggles of an immediate family member battling addiction, a medical issue or mental health diagnosis. Family therapy counseling is also helpful in reducing conflict and improving communication. The type of treatment plan you experience will depend on the nature of the situation within your family. Through family therapy counseling you can develop tools and skills on how to strengthen family connections and persevere through stressful times, that should last you a lifetime.
Why Family Therapy Counseling?
Family therapy counseling can better a strained relationship with your partner, difficulties with your children or troubling matters with other family members. You might explore specific issues such as financial or marital problems, conflict between children and parents, or the impact and consequences of mental illness or substance abuse is having on the entire family.
Families often turn to family therapy counseling in addition to other types of mental health treatment, particularly if someone in the family has an addiction or mental illness also requires its own rehabilitation treatment. For instance:
● Family therapy counseling can help all family members understand, cope with, and support a relative in the grips of schizophrenia.
● In the case of substance abuse, a family can participate in family therapy counseling while the family member with an addiction participates in their own treatment. There are also times when a family participates in counseling even if the family member with the addiction hasn’t sought out their own treatment.
Family therapy counseling can be helpful in any situation causing grief, anger, stress, or conflict within the family. It can be effective in helping all family members understand each other more thoroughly and gain coping skills to strengthen all family ties in all directions Other practical reasons for considering family therapy counseling are:
● When a child has an eating disorder, is experiencing problems with school, or involved with substance abuse.
● A major change or trauma impacts the family (i.e. incarceration of a family member, relocation to a new house, natural disaster,)
● Traumatic or unexpected death of a member of the family
● Adjusting to a new member of the family in the home (i.e. foster child, birth of a sibling, a grandparent entering the home, adoption)
● Domestic abuse or violence in the home
● Divorces, separations, and remarriages
● Families with unique member situations and or blended families
● Conflicts within the family
● Child behavioral issues
● Unexpected life-changing matters such as illness or unemployment
Goals of Family Therapy Counseling
Simply stated, the ability to work together to heal emotional, psychological, or mental problems dividing your family is the goal of family therapy counseling. Family counselors facilitate communication, keeping the conversation guided in a healthy direction to ultimately create a better functioning family environment – away from the counseling session.
A goal of family therapy counseling is to educate on how to support any family member struggling with behavioral health issues, so their recovery sticks with no relapse. Another goal is to improve the family’s emotional health as a whole, so all in the family can thrive. Beyond this, specific goals for family therapy counseling are unique, formed by the family and from the problem(s) of the moment, and may evolve over time.
While family therapy approaches to healing may vary, they all work toward the same objective: improving communication, family dynamics and strengthening inter-relationships.
Many find family therapy:
● Establishes and sustains healthy boundaries
● Fosters communication and cohesion within the family
● Centers on problem solving by understanding of family dynamics and patterns
● Builds understanding and empathy
● Reduces conflicts within the family
● Develops an anger management skill set
More specifically, family therapy counseling can strengthen families through:
● Uniting the family after a crisis;
● Establishing honesty within the family
● Instilling greater trust within the family
● Forming a more compassionate and supportive family environment
● Reducing the family’s level of tension and stress within
● Encouraging members of the family to forgive each other
● Returning back those members of the family who’ve been isolated
Family therapy counseling imparts to all members the tools needed to facilitate healing and skills needed for healthy family functioning.
Family Therapy Counseling at Rhapsody
Family issues can surface in the healthiest of families, creating difficult and painful interactions between family members. Family therapy enables all family members to have serious topic conversations without feeling judged. Rhapsody counselors are trained to facilitate communication within families without resentment or anger and can be a mitigating force to mend the ties that have broken from what was once a closely knit family unit. It’s also worth noting working with a Rhapsody licensed family therapy counselor gives a family an open and safe environment to express both thoughts and emotions – not always possible to do in a person’s home space.
In cases wherein there is a family member in treatment for an addiction, family therapy counseling benefits the entirety of the family by reducing the burden of stress other family members may feel with that circumstance being in the family. It can also effectively prevent additional family members from succumbing to drugs or alcohol. There’s an abundance of research showing family therapy counseling can improve how couples engage with each other, the behavior of children, the entire family’s happiness in life, as well as how the family connects with those outside the family. While family therapy can be difficult and can come with struggles for all involved, the outcome of a healthy functioning family is worth it. Contact us if we can be helpful to you or your family.
Types of Family Therapy Counseling
As opposed to concentrating more on the conflict, family therapy counseling aims to identify behaviors and patterns that lead to problems. Below are some of the frameworks and approaches in family therapy counseling that have proven effective:
- Structural Counseling: This approach focuses on the entire family system, as opposed to trying to figure out each individual family member’s issues first, then moving forward with more of a group therapy dynamic. Working together we’ll identify how conflict is managed in the family structure and help connect the family together. Additionally, we’ll work toward helping family members adopt a more empathetic perspective with a clearer understanding of boundaries.
- Strategic Counseling: In these situations, the focus is on short-term solutions to the immediate problems faced. The counselor will listen and consider the symptoms experienced and provide a framework for quick remedy. The counselor focuses on individuals, clearly defined issues, or specific relationships within the family. Strategic counseling also focuses on altering the behavior that’s producing the problems. This approach is commonly applied with families having behavioral problems with children.
- Systemic / Milan Counseling: The systemic technique views the family as a whole system on the understanding that the problems are within the system and not the individual family members. The objective is to help family members achieve livable agreements that help the system work properly to solve the problem.
- Narrative Counseling: Narrative counseling aims to understand, probe, and identify a family’s issues, concerns, and matters through their stories. The counselor will explore the story from different angles simultaneously separating the problem from the person and dealing with both separately.
When a Family Member Won’t Go to Family Counseling
Occasionally family members are not willing to participate in family therapy and commonly the reasons boil down to:
Fear. The status quo is preferred even if it’s tension filled and troubling, rather than facing the unknown.
Fatigue. People are sometimes exhausted from dealing with the issues
Concerns about authority & power. They may perceive an advantage in keeping things the way things are.
Distrust. A lot of people are not comfortable speaking the frank truth with family in front of an impartial 3rd party therapist/counselor.
Skepticism. They may have a pessimistic view of therapy in general.
The sensible reason to go to family therapy counseling is that you want to work through something with your family, but some in your family may receive it as a personal attack and resist participating. It might help to have a Rhapsody counselor speak one-on-one with an unwilling family member. Together it’s possible we can identify the reasons for the resistance, and perhaps resolve concerns, and discuss the positive outcomes of family therapy counseling. Commonly what’s helpful in moving a person along in participating in the counseling sessions with the rest of the family is simply time. Family members willing to participate in counseling can get started and any unwilling members can join when they are ready.
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Free Discovery Call to Talk with a Counselor
Take the first step in your wellness journey and book a free 10-20 minute discovery call with a Counselor. The Counselor will start off the call with a few questions to get to know you better, so they can make sure they’re qualified to meet your needs. This includes questions about why you’re considering counseling, how you’ve been feeling over the past few weeks, and your goals for counseling.
If possible, take a few minutes before the call to reflect on these topics, so you can have a clearer sense of your goals for counseling. But don’t worry, if you can’t verbalize the answer to any questions, our counselors know how to guide your thinking so you can figure out what to say and the Counselor will welcome you to ask questions about counseling and Rhapsody.