Signs You Might Benefit From Family Therapy (And Where To Find It)

Updated November 29, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Ideally, family cherishes one another. 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 more family dysfunction  than family support. Even so, it may be difficult to know when to reach out for help through family therapy. 

If you are wondering whether it is time to consider counseling or maybe online therapy,  the first step is to find out more about family therapy and how it can help you through challenging situations.

A Peaceful Family Dynamic Is Possible

Definition of Family Therapy

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. 

Sometimes, a family lives together under the same roof. They may also live apart but be closely related. Or, separated parents may live apart but 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 since they are still co-parenting. 

Each family has a unique structure and communication style. Additionally, each family has different strengths and challenges. If two people in the family are at odds, life can become more stressful for everyone in the family. This is where family therapy treatment can help.

Issues That May Come Up In Your Family Counseling Sessions

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 under unusual stress.  If you see any of the following within your family, you may benefit from family therapy.

Children's Behavioral Problems

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.

Child and teen behavioral concerns may include:

  • Acting out at school

  • Failing at school

  • Skipping school

  • Difficulty controlling emotions

  • Bullying or being bullied

  • Drug and alcohol abuse

Troubles That Arise In The Marriage Or Other Adult Partnership

Children do not have a monopoly on dysfunctional relationships. When adult relationships are troubled, the entire family can suffer as a result. Perhaps you have a hard time resolving conflicts within your partnership. 

If you don't communicate with your partner, the household can become fractured as well. Intimacy concerns or financial problems with in a marriage, for example, can lead to larger challenges in the family, too. When these types of difficulties are present in a marriage, marriage and family therapy or couples therapy can help you renegotiate the relationship in a way that decreases family conflict / marital problems while improving family functioning.

Parent-Child Family Relationships and Dysfunctions

Parents and children often have a special bond. However, they don't always get along well. Sometimes, it is because of the child's behavior, but other times, the parent may cause the strain.

These are some common parent-child dysfunctions:

  • Obvious favoritism toward one child

  • Being too strict or too permissive

  • Sheltering the children too much

  • Expecting a child to take on adult responsibilities and roles

  • Inconsistent discipline

  • Being uncommunicative

  • Not providing emotional support or nurturing

  • Unrealistic expectations

  • Disrespecting the child 

Sibling Rivalry

Sibling rivalry is so common that most people assume it's okay. However, sibling rivalry can be a form of bullying. When this happens, children are not competing against one another as they would in a sport, but instead, they're hurting each other due to emotional distress. 

Shared Problems

When a family lives together, they may face life challenges such as:

  • Death of a loved one or family pet

  • Financial challenges such as low income, debt, foreclosures, etc.

  • Natural disasters such as floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.

  • Criminal attacks such as a break-in in the family home, home invasion, or assault

  • Social conflicts with friends, neighbors, or extended family

Benefits Of Family Therapy 

It's common for people to be apprehensive about their first family therapy session, as they might not fully understand the mechanisms of family psychotherapy.  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 therapist explains the process of family therapy and statements will be handled. They usually do not consult with extended family for 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. 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 communication skills, perspectives, or coping skills. They might focus on ways of improving communication, defining family roles, or unpacking emotional problems.

Licensed marriage and family therapists may also assign homework to complete between family therapy sessions to help resolve conflicts. The homework may be a new behavior to practice, a journal-writing topic, or a request to come up with solutions to a problem. 

Where Can I Get Family Counseling Near Me?

Are you ready to explore the question of “How do I find family counseling near me?” Finding the right family counseling services may require a bit of research and consideration. After all, you are a unique family. You have your own set of strengths, challenges, and family history that no one elses. 

You may choose to go to a family therapist who has practiced 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. 

Addressing Barriers To Family Therapy And Effectiveness Of Online Counseling

You may have many concerns about family therapy that could prevent you from getting the help you need. For instance, it can be difficult for individuals to speak out about family problems in an in-person setting. These settings may increase feelings of embarrassment or shame about the issues they’re experiencing with family. 

Online therapy offers a more discreet alternative to in-person counseling. With this type of internet-based therapy, family is empowered to discuss problems openly from the comfort of their homes. 

Online marriage and family therapy can also be an effective way to strengthen your family relationships. A recent study suggests 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 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.


Research and anecdotal evidence both show the power of individual and family therapy for strengthening families. At BetterHelp, you can choose a counselor with the training, experience, and value system that matches your family’s needs. Plus, every therapist has at least three years and 1,000 hours of hands-on experience, so you’ll know you’re in good hands. Positive results could be right around the corner with family therapy. 

Consider these recent reviews from people like you who are working with BetterHelp for mental health treatment.

Conclusion and Counselor Reviews

“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!”

A Peaceful Family Dynamic Is Possible

“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. I have found a new confidence in setting boundaries in other areas of my life as well.”

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