An Essential Guide To Family Counseling
September 20, 2021
All human relations, including those with whom we have blood ties, can become complicated. The reason is that people are different, and the human mind is complex. And in some cases, understanding the other person fully may be tricky because even as an individual, sometimes you may not understand what's going on in your life or your thoughts.
Over the years, it’s sometimes inevitable for families to grow apart or lose emotional connection. It could be due to busy schedules and physical distance, young members slowly striving for independence, generational gaps, sibling rivalries, personal differences and issues towards other members, or disagreements, to name a few. And while reconnecting and exerting efforts to bond and communicate can help patch up the gap, there may be cases wherein rebuilding relationships can be challenging. This is where seeking counseling comes into play.
How Can Family Counseling Help?
Family therapies or counseling provide families with a safe space to talk about their pain points and what they’re going through. The goal of having such a session is to identify and address any behavioral, emotional, and psychological concerns that may be causing family problems, disagreements, and even hostile interactions.
Among the notable benefits of family counseling is that it helps families communicate better and establish each member’s boundaries. This can go a long way in promoting healthy and positive relationships among the group. While family counseling alone cannot completely mend the bond, it can be a significant step towards change and a fresh start.
Aside from rebuilding family relationships, here are some of the family matters that may need expert intervention:
- Anger issues
- Drug and substance abuse
- Unresolved conflict between family members
- Divorce, separation, and infidelity
- Inconsistent parenting
- Kids experiencing problems at school
- Loss of a family member
- Marital issues
- Mental Illness
- Problems with in-laws and the extended family
- Domestic violence
- Misunderstanding between siblings or sibling rivalry
You can handle some things as a family, but if issues continue escalating or are left unresolved, they can further drive a wedge between family members and cause them to drift apart even more.
And as you navigate the journey toward having healthy family relationships, here are some insights you may find helpful:
What To Look For In A Family Counselor?
Working with the right counselor or therapist is necessary to ensure favorable outcomes. For one, you’d want to work with someone you can trust and show genuine care for your and your family’s well-being. More so, you wouldn’t want to deal with a fake counselor whose aim is to get money and who's not interested in helping you through your family’s challenges.
Finding the right counselor to work with can be challenging but not impossible. You can check institutes such as API Counseling Group and other resources online to know your therapy options. You can also ask for referrals or recommendations from friends and colleagues who may know and have worked with a family counselor before.
That said, here are some considerations to keep in mind when looking for and choosing a family counselor to work with:
- License And Credentials
It's essential that you confirm that the individual is licensed to practice or qualified by the respective authority bodies. You’d also want to check their credentials and training experience to ensure their capability to handle your case and offer counseling services.
Part of this is also to verify if they had disciplinary actions or malpractice cases in their records. All these can help establish their credibility and reliability to help you and your family.
Aside from technical qualifications, take your time in assessing the counselor’s experience. As much as possible, you’d want to work with someone who has enough experience and an in-depth understanding of what you and your family are going through. Ideally, you’d want a counselor who knows how to handle difficult situations and has dealt with cases similar to yours.
You can check reviews and read what previous patients have to say about working with them. This can give you an insight into the types of cases and patients the counselor is familiar with.
- Treatment Style And Approach
One thing to note is that different family counselors have unique ways of dealing with their clients. For instance, you may find that some professionals may prefer to have a separate meeting with every family member and would like to interview them individually to get to know them and their side of things. In contrast, others may conduct a session that generally involves everyone.
With that in mind, consider the counselor’s treatment style and approach and assess if it aligns with your family’s preference and who you think can best help mediate the issues between your family.
How To Prepare For Your First Appointment?
The first few sessions can usually be intimidating, especially if this is the first time you’ll be seeking counseling or meeting a professional. The thought of speaking freely about your thoughts and emotions can be terrifying, but you can take it one step at a time. Remember that your counselor is with you, and their role is to help you and your family get through this together and communicate better.
The goal of the first session is generally to establish connections. This is where you introduce yourself as a family and familiarize yourself with the counselor. This can also be the time wherein your counselor may ask questions such as:
- The problems at hand
- Every family member's view on the problem
- A brief family background, including health history
- If you've ever sought any help from elsewhere
- What do you expect to achieve out of the counseling sessions
The first few sessions can be critical, as they can help you determine whether you'll continue working with the professional based on their attitude and attributes. Note that how they communicate with you and your family is equally important. After all, you’d want to work with someone the family feels comfortable with and trusts.
Thus, it would be best to be keen on how the counselor makes you feel as you interact. And while feeling a bit nervous is expected since it's the first time, your counselor should help you ease the tension.
During your first few sessions, pay attention to how the counselor communicates and engages with you. Are they approachable? How did they answer your questions? Do you feel like you can trust them and that they’re genuinely interested in your well-being?
Furthermore, here are some of the good signs that can indicate a successful session with a reliable counselor:
- You and our family members have established a positive connection with the counselor.
- The counselor gave you ample time to talk and listened to you attentively.
- You feel that your emotions, thoughts, experiences, and actions are accepted and validated during the session.
- The counselor exhibited high understanding and empathy when communicating with you and offering professional input and advice.
These are all important considerations since the way they communicate with you can give you a glimpse of how your sessions will go in the future.
What To Expect In Family Counseling Sessions?
The goal of family counseling is to identify and resolve the conflicts within the family and improve connections and promote healthier interactions. And as you continue attending sessions, your counselor also gets to learn more about the family dynamics and relationships based on the information you give. This can help them better understand the situation and analyze the issues you’re encountering.
From there, your counselor may try different tactics to develop possible solutions. A family structure mapping tool, for instance, can help determine the healthy things about your family and the probable causes of issues. As you go through the sessions, your counselor will explain the basic ideas of this approach, such as:
- The role of the family in fulfilling the parents' and kids' needs
- How a family should be a haven for all its members
- Why it's important to avoid exclusion
- Healthy boundaries between members
They could also go on to explain how failing to fulfill the family members’ needs may cause some members psychological wounds and chronic stress, which can lower their self-esteem. And in some cases, family members who lack proper nurturing and a sense of belonging in their families tend to struggle with impulsiveness, anger issues, withdrawal symptoms, and anxiety disorder.
As you go through family counseling sessions, your counselor can help enlighten the family members to understand the root causes of conflicts without pointing out who's wrong and right. That allows the family members to think critically, identify areas where they might have gone wrong, and afterward, have a general discussion. This can help lead family members on the path to emotional and psychological healing and a better understanding of where each member is coming from.
Wrapping It Up
Seeking family counseling is a fundamental step that can help you identify and resolve any behavioral, psychological, and emotional issues you may be dealing with. While there are conflicts you can settle and deal with internally, a professional can help you and your family analyze the situation and offer you advice to cope and address issues healthily.
And ultimately, this can help you work out family conflicts, pave the way for better communication among family members, create healthy boundaries, encourage empathy and understanding, and strengthen family relationships.