What Could Be Gained From Child And Family Counseling?

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW and Julie Dodson, MA
Updated July 12, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
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Counseling is often thought of as an individual process, and individual therapy can be beneficial for many people. However, when the identified client is a child, child and family counseling may be a valuable complementary modality in addressing their needs. In many cases, supplementing individual counseling with a family counseling group is an effective way to address the needs of a child or teens within the family context and to help restructure dysfunctional family dynamics.

Unresolved personal conflicts can hurt families

What is the purpose of child and family counseling?

Child and family counseling often focuses on the overall family dynamics, and the family unit as a whole is the identified client. Family therapists may believe that each family's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interconnected. Through family counseling, which is typically conducted as group therapy,

Each identified person in the family unit has an opportunity to become aware of how their behaviors impact the family system as a whole. Family therapists are committed to providing insights and guidance based on their observations of—and interactions with—family members. rather than focusing on one individual's thoughts, feelings, or behaviors, the entire family system is evaluated. This may include parent-child contact, interactions between siblings, and a range of other group dynamics.

Children often first relate to others through how they relate to their families and their contact with family members. Children in healthy homes who demonstrate positive interpersonal interactions can translate those behaviors into their relationships with others as adults. If youth are embedded in an environment with unhealthy relational dynamics, they might translate this into their interactions with others in school and the community. If not treated early on, those who have experienced emotional trauma due to family influence may carry maladaptive interpersonal behaviors with them as they enter adulthood. These experiences can cause difficulty finding a career, having long-lasting and meaningful relationships, and having healthy self-esteem. If such experiences have negatively impacted a child, family counseling can help.

The benefits of child and family counseling

There are various ways that child and family counseling can benefit families looking for support and that can support children, including the following. 

Addressing behavior and communication 

Child and family counseling may help families address interpersonal conflicts, communication challenges, and behavioral concerns within a family context. A trained professional can facilitate and model productive communication and conflict-resolution skills. Relationship patterns between families may be enacted in sessions, allowing the therapist to offer advice and support in real time. 

Locating potential areas of dysfunction 

Therapists skilled in this form of counseling may aim to understand the dysfunctions in the family and diminish them using research-backed methods. For families struggling with interpersonal or communication concerns, a therapist can provide a structured and supportive environment for discussion and learning. 

The family therapist's role is to support and assist the family as best they can, allowing them to set their own goals and offering professional insight. By identifying potential areas for growth, family can feel empathetic for one another and understand each other's impact on the overall unit. Working together in collaboration can be essential.  


Addressing the needs of young children 

Child and family therapy can address a child's needs before they become an adolescent or adult. This type of therapy is often child-centered, allowing the family to work together to understand the child's needs and support them through their challenges. 

Due to developmental limitations, young children may not have the cognitive or linguistic sophistication to fully express their thoughts and feelings in a way adults can understand. In this case, individual therapy sessions may include projective techniques that help provide the counselor with insight into the thoughts and feelings of their inner child.

A trained counselor can help children express and process their thoughts and feelings in a developmentally appropriate way, such as through play therapy, and effectively work with their caregivers in family sessions to help them understand and address the youth's needs and potentially provide a comprehensive diagnostic report on a child’s mental health.

Laying a foundation for skills

Child and family counseling may also help families lay the foundation for skills to be utilized beyond the committed family dynamic. Since family counseling often addresses interpersonal relationships, the skills family learn in child and family therapy, such as effective communication, parenting skills, problem-solving, establishing healthy boundaries, and positive conflict resolution, can be translated to other life domains, such as the workplace, school, romantic relationships, and friendships.

For patients or families with more severe and chronic mental health challenges, such as substance use, anti-social or violent behaviors, severe anxiety, depression, or disordered eating, family counseling may support a structured environment and help parents find local resources. These issues may seem overwhelming when attempting to handle them yourself, but family support can be a factor in coping with chronic concerns more positively. 

Unresolved personal conflicts can hurt families

Where can you receive child and family counseling?

For individuals requiring an intensive level of care through rehabilitation, partial care, or intensive outpatient services, family counseling may be a part of a milieu therapy approach in treatment where a qualified team of staff members works with clients on many levels. For example, it may be used in conjunction with individual or group therapy. For families generally stable in their home and community environment, family counseling can be sought at a local outpatient clinic, a family counseling center, or a local practitioner's non-public practice for treatment.

Telehealth counseling is also available for families who prefer to receive therapy services from the comfort and safety of their homes, as opposed to a therapist's office or a counseling center. This form of behavioral health care can also be helpful for those who live in an area with limited therapeutic services. Through online therapy, families can meet from separate locations using a smart device and an internet connection. If you're unsure about the effectiveness of online counseling, note that online therapy has been proven as effective as in-person therapy in treating families and parents experiencing distress due to family mental health concerns like the diagnosis of mental illness. 

Online therapy can be utilized for individual or couples therapy through platforms like BetterHelp for individual adults, Regain for couples, or TeenCounseling for teens aged 13 to 19. All three platforms allow individuals to match with therapists or clinical social workers unique to their preferences. Online therapy can be a valuable resource for discussing individual or relational concerns with a family therapist without having to commute to an office. 


Child and family therapy takes a child-centered approach to mental health support. It allows parents to connect with their children through activities, guided conversations, and professional support from a therapist. If you’ve experienced conflict or tension or are concerned about the mental health of your child, family counseling can help you operate as a team and foster emotional wellness. Consider contacting a family provider in your area or utilizing online therapy services to gain further insight into the process. 

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