WHAT IS FAMILY COUNSELING?
Family counseling is a form of therapy where you and the different members of your family come together and learn to navigate the issues that affect you as a family unit. Instead of focusing in on one individual as you would with one on one therapy, family counseling is works to recognize and address issues within the family that affect everyone within the family.
With family therapy, the goal isn’t to find out who is right and who is wrong. It’s all about finding the issues your family is struggling with and giving you all as a unit the tools and skills you need to address those issues. Family counseling works to improve the way your family interacts and communicates.
WHAT HAPPENS AT FAMILY COUNSELING?
Family counseling, unlike individual counseling is designed to be a short term process. Where in individual counseling you would have an indefinite number of sessions (depending on your reason for receiving counseling in the first place) family therapy typically has a set number of sessions that you would be aware of when starting. The typical duration is somewhere between five and twenty sessions.
The exact duration would of course depend on why you and your family have come to therapy in the first place! And while on the whole, family therapy tends to be shorter term than individual therapy, it’s not unheard of for families to stay in therapy for months or years. When deciding what type of therapy would be best for your family, consider if you want it to be a more free flowing structure, or one with a clear schedule and goals.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF FAMILY COUNSELING IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
So how do you know if family counseling is the right choice for you? Would it be better for members to go to therapy individually, or would working as a unit make the most progress?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when considering family therapy:
1). Is there an energy drain in your family?
What this can mean: spending time together is difficult for your family. Even when it is things that used to be part of a normal routine, your family struggles to get through time and responsibilities together. It can also show up as explosive or extreme emotional reactions to things. If excessive anger, sadness, etc. are common in your family, there may be an unaddressed emotional drain within the family structure.
2). Can your family communicate effectively?
Do the members of your family communicate easily and regularly? Or is there often silence and frustration until eventually the issue grows large enough for an extreme emotional reaction?
3). Has there been a significant shift in your family life?
This can come in many forms. Perhaps there has been a divorce, maybe your family has moved, or a family member has died or gotten sick. Is there a new family member joining soon (an engagement, a pregnancy, etc.)? Any major shift in the family structure or day to day family life can be difficult to deal with–even when it is good news! Change is hard and when it affects the foundation of the family, it may be time to consider family therapy.
Choosing to explore the option of family therapy can repair communication, strengthen your family bonds, and bring you closer together. Not only will you be able to work through the issues that brought you into therapy in the first place, but when you leave, you will be able to take the skills you learned in session and apply them to future obstacles or challenges facing your family unit.