What is family counseling?

Family problems can present in any family, even the “healthiest” of them all. As a young child I asked my mother, “What about all those families who don’t have problems and she wisely said, “Oh dear, you just don’t know them well enough.” Every family struggles with minor issues like siblings not getting along, to more serious matters such as abuse or addiction. Individual and couples therapy likely come to mind faster than family therapy, but family therapy can be a very powerful tool to bring long -needed relief from numerous symptom.

Family Counseling FAQs

What are some symptoms?

  • Unresolved Grief
  • Serious Behavioral Problems
  • Abuse
  • Aggression
  • Chronic Illnesses
  • Addiction to Alcohol or Drugs
  • Suicide
  • Chronic Illness
  • Loss of Family Members
  • Serious Debt Causing Loss of House or Life Style
  • Memories of Abuse Surfacing
  • Unsuccessful Adoptions
  • Divorce or Separation
  • Undiagnosed Mental Illness

What is family counseling?

According to Psychology Today, Marriage and Family Therapy or MFT is a form of psychotherapy that addresses the behaviors of all family members and the way these behaviors affect not only individual family members, but also relationships between family members and the family unit as a whole.” In other words, there is not one individual that is focused on solely, or seen as the “unhealthy or dysfunctional one” rather, the focus of treatment is how the different ways the family works as a unit in relation to each individual’s behaviors.

What are some of the specific issues that family therapy is helpful for?

The range of physical and psychological problems treated by include marital and couple conflict, parent and child conflict, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual dysfunction, grief, distress, eating disorders and weight issues, children’s behavior problems, and issues with eldercare, such as coping with a parent’s or grandparent’s dementia. MFT practitioners also work with mental-health issues such as a family member’s depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia, and the impact these issues have on the rest of the family.

How can family therapy be beneficial or used instead of individual counseling?

Numerous individual mental health diagnoses are also considered to be a “family disease” such as Anorexia, Bulimia, Addiction, and Abuse. The chances of an individual addicted to drugs and alcohol (or gambling, eating, sex) staying sober, or out of their “active addiction” are highly increased If the family changes as a unit, and in turn, each individual changes their behaviors as well. For example, a family member may be “enabling” or making it easier for the addicted family member to use or stay “in their addition.” This is also true with Anorexia. Often, the family member suffering from Anorexia is receiving erroneous messages about family expectations and self-worth. Family therapy would focus on these messages and try to change them into positive messages of self-care, self-love, and acceptance.

Can family therapy and individual therapy be combined?

In reference to the example used in question 3, the family member who is addicted to drugs or alcohol may attend “detox” (admission into a hospital for a medically safe detoxification of the chemical of abuse). Next, they may then attend “rehab” (Rehabilitation, usually a 28-30 day say in an inpatient setting, or a lower level of care, such as “intensive outpatient” which can run most of the day, but no overnight stays are required at the facility. Therefore, the individual attends therapy and groups, while the rest of the family learn how to help their loved one stay sober or out of their active addiction. After rehab is completed, the family reunites and family therapy can be implemented to help all family members stay healthy.