A healthy family life can bring joy to every member. In hard times, members support each other. They work toward common goals and enjoy leisure time together. Being a part of a family isn't always easy, though. Sometimes, individual concerns meld together to create family dysfunction rather than family support. Even so, it may be difficult to know when to get help in family therapy. Family therapy may help you know whether you are just going through a rough patch or your family is in a more serious downward spiral.
If you are wondering whether it is time to consider counseling or maybe online therapy, a good first step is to find out more about family therapy and how it can help you through challenging situations.
Years ago, society considered a family to consist of a married couple and their children or all the descendants of an older adult or ancestor. Today, the standard definition of a family system is more inclusive. A family is a basic social unit. In addition to its earlier meanings, a family can also mean a single adult and their children, an unmarried couple and their children, a same-sex couple and their children, or any group of adults and the children they care for. For many people, friends are as much or more important than their biological family members. However, unless friends live together, they don't meet the definition of a family.
Sometimes, a family lives together under the safe roof. They may also live apart but be closely related. For example, a parent who does not have custody of a child would still consider the child as a family member. Or, separated parents may live apart but share custody of their child. In that case, the child would be considered a part of each parent's family. Family therapy for such a family sometimes includes both adults – not because they still consider each other family, but because they are still co-parenting. Usually, members of a family are either biologically related, living together, or both.
Each family has a unique structure and a variety of communication styles. And each family has different family strengths that make them unique. What affects one family member usually affects other members as well. If two people in the family are at odds, life can become more stressful for everyone in the family. When changes happen within the family unit, all members must adapt to the new situation. This is where family therapy treatment can help.
Families that have never developed a beneficial structure or a healthy communication style may quickly fall into turmoil when something goes wrong. Even a family that once functioned well can become dysfunctional when it is under unusual stress. After all, all family systems are different. If you see any of the following within your family, consider getting help through family therapy.
If a child is misbehaving, chances are there is dysfunction in the family. Perhaps unhealthy family dynamics are at the root of the issue, the child's misbehavior is causing stress within the family, or both. Addressing the child's behavior is an important part of arriving at a place of peace within the family.
These are some common Parent-Child dysfunctions:
When a family lives together, they may face shared life challenges, such as:
It's common for people to be apprehensive about their first family therapy session, as they might not full understand the benefits of family psychotherapy. Commonly, before the first family therapy session begins, family members all get a chance to fill out assessment paperwork that includes their personal histories, individual medical and mental health histories, and possibly a questionnaire about what happens within the family from each of their perspectives. You might be wondering, "How many sessions will it take to see improvement?" That varies significantly from family to family. It's best to ask your therapist about this, as they will have a better understanding of each person in the family.
During the first family therapy session, the family therapist explains the process of family therapy and how confidential statements will be handled in family therapy. The counselor then takes time to get to know each family member, observe behavior patterns, learn what brought them to family therapy, and understand the specific issues each is facing. The family therapist — similar to how other mental health professionals work — also asks a lot of questions and observes the family members communicate, who takes on different roles, and where conflicts or trauma lie, and determines which symptoms or challenges may be present. The counselor usually talks with the entire family first and possibly with one or more family members individually. They usually do not consult with extended family for treatment. They especially want to understand mental health conditions each family member may be navigating to tailor the treatment.
In later family therapy sessions, the therapist, having gathered significant initial information, may focus on the most serious concerns in communication and family functioning. The counselor may choose certain family members to attend sessions together, sometimes seeing the entire group and sometimes working with an individual client or only a few family members. They may spend more time with those who are having the most difficulty or are in the best position to make changes for the better through new skills, perspectives, or coping skills. They might focus ways to improving communication, defining family roles, or unpacking emotional problems for a person.
Licensed Marriage and family therapists may assign homework to complete between family therapy sessions to help resolve conflicts as part of the treatment plan. The homework may be a new behavior to practice, a journal-writing topic, or a request to come up with solutions to a problem. At the next family therapy session, individual family members get to talk about what happened when they did the homework and how it might help family members understand each other better.
Are you ready to explore the question of “How do I find family counseling near me?” Finding the right family counseling services to help your mental health may require a bit of research and consideration for the right treatment. After all, you are a unique family. You have your own unique set of strengths, challenges, and family history that no one else shares. That means you also have many options for help for family issues.
You may choose to go to a family therapist who has a private practice in your city or who works within the community mental health or psychology system. Or you may ask your primary care doctor if they can make a referral. Before you choose a family counselor, it is important to give them a summary of your concerns and ask them what kind of therapy they recommend or use. This will give you a basic idea of their approach with clients. It's important to note that they are not able to prescribe patients with medication or other drugs associated with mental health conditions. You'd want to consult a doctor or psychiatrist for that type of help.
Some marriage and family therapy services are especially well-equipped to address cultural differences within the family and within the community they live. Family Tree Counseling, for example, is a branded therapy that includes marriage and family counseling for all family members. Therapists have experience working with non-traditional families and the LGBT community.
Online marriage and family therapy can be an effective way to learn ways to strengthen your family relationships. A recent study indicates that couples who work with online marriage and family therapists (as opposed to a therapist in a traditional brick and mortar office) find the format conducive to sharing their feelings in a way that left them feeling less judged. Participants went on to say that video-based therapy allowed them to focus more intently on the experiential therapeutic process and offered a greater sense of control and comfort than traditional face-to-face therapy. Peer reviewed studies like this one have helped online therapy grow in popularity.
Online family counseling through BetterHelp allows parents to bring the family together in family love for therapy in their own home or anywhere they have an internet connection to help address a mental health condition. You can choose a counselor with the training, experience, and value system that matches your family’s needs – every therapist has at least three years and 1,000 hours of hands-on experience. A family therapist can also help family members living with depression, mood disorders, anxiety, substance abuse, or other challenges. Therapy can also be beneficial during major life transitions. Consider these recent reviews from people like you who are working with BetterHelp family therapists for mental health treatment.
“Ms. Pamela is a kind and genuine active listener. She has provided activities and worksheets that have helped my family and I tremendously with our daily lives. We are so grateful for the help. I look forward to my sessions with Pamela every week!”
“I met with Debra to find a way to resolve a family conflict. I was new to counseling and was hesitant to reach out for help. Debra was a compassionate listener who immediately made me feel comfortable. She helped me gain insight and self-knowledge in order to incorporate new tools and behaviors that I could use in order to set boundaries and establish healthy communication with my family member. I have found a new confidence in setting boundaries in other areas of my life as well.”
Peace at home is more than possible with your family members. Positive results could be right around the corner with family therapy. It is what you deserve for all your family members. Family therapy can help you find that peace.
What are the 3 goals of family therapy?
Some of the top 3 goals of these therapists include developing and maintaining healthy boundaries, improve communication patterns, and to better understand existing dynamics and how to make them healthier for each person. Marriage and family therapy aims to tackle the family system, other members, and any issues inside the home environment, including potential mental illness.
What is the purpose of it?
One of the main purposes of a marriage and family therapist is to address conflicts within, unhealthy patterns, and improve communication and boundaries. Additionally, functional family therapy can often help address any mental health problems affecting members of the family. It can also help a family solve problems facing them as a unit, or it can help define family functions for everyone's benefit. The therapist can help family members understand each other better and improve communication overall. However, often chronic illness and serious mental health treatment might need to happen outside of these therapy sessions. Healthy relationships is the main focus for a counselor and therapist.
What are the techniques?
These techniques used by a licensed professional in therapy sessions are ways to address family conflict or unhealthy patterns by increasing healthy communication and changing some dynamics and unhealthy patterns. There are 4 main techniques: Structural, Bowenian, Strategic, and Systematic.
What are the main types?
The 4 main types most often used by professionals are: supportive family therapy, psychodynamic ideas, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and systemic therapy. Often, for more intense mental health conditions or behavioral and emotional problems affecting a member, other mental health professionals might be beneficial in successfully getting the support they need.
What are the five approaches?
How do I start?
Family counseling aims to help members interact in the best way possible. Explain to your children or other members why you are starting this therapy journey together, introduce them to the therapist and give an outline of what sessions will look like, as well as what the goal of it is. Emphasize how this is for the benefit of everyone, not as a punishment.
What are advantages?
Learning ways to resolve issues, have siblings grow closer together, improve communication, gain a clearer perspective of the role each person serves in the family unit, and help children get heard. It can also have positive effects for other mental health challenges, like anxiety, depression, substance abuse, etc.
Each session and family is different, but you can examine how yours solves problems, addresses problems, and each member can express their thoughts and emotions in a safe and productive space.
What are some challenges?
A big one is lack of communication or unwillingness to share, and that can lead to the benefits of therapy taking longer to show. If someone doesn't listen well to others, or expresses feelings in an inaproppriate or accusatory way, this can make family therapy challenging at times.
What are the do and don'ts in counseling?
Don't yell, accuse, talk-over, assume how people think or feel. Do share your emotions, listen to the feedback, and be honest in your experiences. Learn more from the American Association of Psychiatry.