Therapy isn’t just for individuals or couples going through tough times. When families experience hardship or traumatic events together, it sometimes takes an objective third party to fully unpack the mental and emotional weight burdened by families on the individual level and as a whole.

What is family counseling?

Family counseling, or family therapy, is a mental health treatment modality that addresses challenges that can have an impact on the family unit. These challenges can include but are certainly not limited to – substance addiction, traumatic events, behavioral issues, loss of a loved one and grief, divorce and chronic mental or physical illness. For example, family therapy can be beneficial when one family member wants to seek treatment for their substance addiction while also repairing the damage the addiction had on the family. A core aspect of family counseling is the belief in family systems theory or the idea that families are cohesive, complementary systems rather than groups of detached individuals.

Does family counseling work?

In short, family counseling is shown to work. Working with a professional through family challenges beyond our own expertise is an effective method at addressing the issues head-on while defining coping mechanisms for each person. Family counseling also enables families to discuss any concerns in a safe, neutral setting and with the guidance of a licensed, experienced therapist. Parents, children and siblings alike can learn how to communicate effectively with one another, draw healthy boundaries, cope with stressful or traumatic events and set expectations for life together after the counseling ends. Family counseling provides opportunities that may not have otherwise been taken to tackle issues that are detrimental to the family.

What are the benefits of family counseling?

The benefits of family counseling are largely dependent on the reasons counseling is being sought. If a couple has decided to divorce and would like to discuss the upcoming change with their children in therapy, family counseling can help the parents explain why the divorce is happening, what the family will look like after the divorce and that they will always be one family no matter what. If one family member finds themselves particularly struggling — in this example, perhaps a young child who is upset at the thought of their parents divorcing — family counseling can teach each family member how to act as a support system for that person while acknowledging the reality of the situation. Of great importance, it can help strengthen bonds between family members and facilitate a better understanding of one another.

A universal benefit is that family therapy fosters open communication, even outside of the hour-long therapy sessions between family members who were perhaps not as willing to discuss the family’s challenges prior to beginning treatment. Similarly, family counseling can help lighten the emotional load that family members are feeling. Getting things off of one’s chest can do wonders for healing.

What can I expect in family counseling?

Your family counseling sessions will likely be held by a licensed marriage and family therapist, a specialist in the broader field of counseling and therapy who has dedicated their practice to family recovery. Your first meeting together will likely be an overview of what your family is working through as well as what you hope to get out of the counseling. Over time, your therapist will help you uncover the root of the issues, explore coping and problem-solving tools and observe any strengths and weaknesses throughout the treatment. Finally, your family should set some goals for how they can carry out what they’ve learned into life after therapy.

There are many different approaches to family counseling, but this is what makes the treatment so effective. A key aspect of family counseling is to hone the approach that works best for the individual family and the issues they are addressing. Keeping the underlying family systems theory in mind, family therapists can also employ more specific psychological techniques in family counseling, ranging from cognitive behavioral therapy to art therapy. Find the therapist and therapy approach that is right for your family, and don’t be afraid to speak up if something isn’t working for you.

How can my family begin counseling together?

Beginning family counseling is a big step towards familial healing. Walden by Pyramid Healthcare offers a variety of family services, including family intervention, family counseling and family recovery support, for all kinds of families. Reach out today at (301) 997-1300 to find out which treatment option is best for your family.