How could family counseling help me?
So what is family counseling exactly? When is family counseling right for me? Family counseling is used to encourage conversation between members of the family. Who is going to speak? What is blocking that? What do they want to talk about? It might clarify a new pattern of being together after a marital breakdown or remarriage. It can also help to process feelings of being excluded or rejected which might be otherwise acted out in disruptive behavior; misunderstood by the other family members. Communication might be repaired or established for the first time. Members may feel supported and encouraged to manage changes with the help of impartial trained family counselor.
Private family therapists are increasing in number and some charitable and voluntary agencies now offer family counseling. They usually work with Systemic theories or in a cognitive way (looking at thoughts) to clarify what the problems are and then focus on solutions rather than delving into the origins of the problems. This can help with self-reflection for the individuals and increase self-awareness of their family’s stage in its life cycle.
Issues which might be explored may relate to one incident or a repeated pattern. They can include exploration and understanding of
the current problem
how it is seen differently by different members
successful ways of dealing with past problems
characters of each member
alliances and hostilities within the group
how the group functions emotionally - who is close and who is distant
who expresses anger or sadness and who comforts.
A family counselor maintains neutrality at all times to establish a platform free from blame and prejudice to allow members to explore the problem and then express their concerns for the family’s ability to change. Each family is unique, even within its own culture, and a non-judgmental view about the family’s beliefs and values; ethnicity, sexuality, religion, ability, age and class is essential to allow a new, better ‘system’ or set of rules to be formed.
This is done by collecting the views and thoughts through questions, mainly about the differences that exist among the individuals. Family members are then invited to be observers, too, of the questions answered by other members and of their own behaviors and assumptions. The trained family counselor offers the group an opportunity to think and reflect on the present situation with a view to moving towards a better way of being together.
An assessment can be difficult due to the number of clients – defining where the problem is can mean something different to each member of the family. One person might be blamed and they in turn may blame someone else. If this issue gets stuck these two members might work together for a couple of sessions. Counseling can help establish the events that have led to the family needing help. These might include life events, transitions or repeating patterns. Family problems might be mapped out to show their history and development and allow members to feel clearer about the problems and how they might have arisen, reducing blame. There should also be an opportunity to define the relationships, as people see them themselves and as others do. This can lead to greater awareness and insight to allow any necessary changes. It can also offer the opportunity to see the abilities and difficulties that are available within the family group for dealing with problems and change and how they be might be used.