Our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors don’t exist in a vacuum. We are continually and deeply influenced by those around us, and in turn what we do has a significant impact on others. Nowhere is this impact felt as strongly as it is within our own family.
Families have their own system and culture. Within that system exists norms and expectations around boundaries, communication patterns, and how people think and behave. A family counseling approach looks at the entire family to both explain a problem that an individual is experiencing as well as to formulate a solution.
This approach makes the family as a whole, not just one individual, responsible for fixing what is wrong. It also helps to prevent scapegoating, a common scenario where one member of the family is blamed for having the “problem”, when in fact the entire family may not be functioning in a healthy, optimal way. If a family secret is causing challenges (such as substance abuse, domestic violence, or serious marital discord), these secrets can be more rapidly revealed and addressed when the entire family is engaged in the counseling process.
The need for family counseling can be very evident in problems facing teenagers. For example a teenager’s anger might be related to problems with how he is being parented or a crisis in his parent’s marriage. A mother might bring her daughter to counseling due to marijuana use, yet the mother refuses to recognize her own addiction to prescription pain medications. In these scenarios, counseling the teenagers alone without including the parents would have a minimal impact because it fails to engage significant contributors to the true problem.
Productive family counseling can have a powerful and positive influence on a family’s ability to enact change and resolve difficult situations. If your family is facing a challenge or crisis, consider if family counseling might help.