We all start this life with a family, which from the moment we are born influences every aspect of our lives, from our first moments to our last. No matter what our family may look like (blood relatives, adopted parents, foster families, live in grandparents, blended families, etc.) the family we grew up in affected who we are and who we will become. Besides learning our vocabulary, habits, customs, and often how we view and observe the world around us; we also learn how to love, and how to interact with others from these first important relationships. All families, mine included, have had their problems at one time or another. Good families can have difficult times and come to difficult points in life. Some families struggle with good communication, some families have boundary issues, and the list goes on. Even the best families can feel a need for help when they’re feeling overwhelmed or issues seem too much to handle on their own. This is where family therapy can be a game changer.
When I say Family Therapy, you probably think of having to drag all family members in for the therapy session, and while that’s certainly ideal, it is not imperative. Families coming in to therapy together whether it’s siblings, whole families, couples, or just parents will learn some invaluable tools to help make the family unit stronger and healthier. But family therapy views problems as patterns within the system, and anyone, individually or with other family members can work on issues resulting from problems within a family unit. Maybe you grew up with an alcoholic parent, or even just little to no communication and the parent or parents won’t come in or are no longer living, you can still work through those issues as they relate to your life. There are so many ways that family therapy can help you or your family. Families can develop and maintain healthy boundaries, foster cohesion and communication among family members, and promote problem solving. It reduces family conflict, builds empathy, and understand other’s views. Family therapy is meant to be considerate of the needs of each family member or other key relationships, helps each person build on strengths, and make positive changes to move themselves and the family forward.
Deciding if family therapy or couples counseling is right for your family can be a big decision. While it may feel initially like admitting defeat or failure, in reality choosing family therapy is a big step forward. Think of family therapy as adding some tools to your family's relationship toolbox. You can learn new ways to communicate, to work through problems, to discipline and to relate to one another. Family Therapy is about healing, forgiving, building resiliency, letting go of guilt or shame, and just becoming a better you, or family unit.
Do you think you or your family would benefit from family therapy? Here are a few questions to help you decide:
--Has your family had a traumatic experience such as a death in the family, divorce, an affair? Are family members having a hard time coping or difficulty adjusting to a new reality?
--Are there challenges with alcohol or drug use in your family?
--Is there a family member with an eating disorder?
--Have there been changes in the children's behavior at home or school? Are grades taking a nosedive? What about attendance problems or disruptive behavior at school?
--Has there been major trauma or change that has impacted the entire family (relocation, natural disaster)?
--Is there a child in the family that is out of control at home?
--Has a family member withdrawn from family life? Is there an ongoing pattern of seclusion?
--Has your family experienced an unexpected or traumatic loss of a loved one?
--Are there symptoms of violence or the threat of violence to oneself or other family members? Beyond normal 'horseplay' do you feel that violence is a problem? Is there behavior that would be considered 'assault' if it weren't between family members?
--Is there ongoing conflict between parents or family members?
--Are family members expressing feelings of helplessness or hopelessness? Feeling like you’ve reached the end of your rope?
--Are there family members that tend to have extreme emotional reactions? Do they exhibit excessive anger, fear, sadness, depression, anxiety or other emotional reactions?
--Are family members having difficulty functioning in their daily life? Do you feel an "energy drain" in your family? Things that used to be routine and normal are now burdensome?
--Is your family experiencing financial problems that are adding additional stress to your family unit?
--Do you have a family member that has special needs or requires special care? Do you need a safe place to feel supported as the caregiver?
--Issues with extended family members
--Is there a significant breakdown in communication between family members. Do you find it harder to communicate than usual? Are you experiencing the "silent treatment" more often than not? Possibly feelings of unending tension?
--Any ongoing problems that may be a result from past abuse, neglect, etc.
If you or your family are going through any of these things, or any other issues, please reach out. We can address family pain and learn to heal wounds together.