Family therapy or family counseling is designed to address specific issues that affect the psychological health of the family, such as major life transitions or mental health conditions. It may be used as the primary mode of treatment or as a complementary approach.
Ideally, our families are those whom we can always rely on for support, from whom we draw strength and feedback, for whom we feel love and concern, and with whom we feel close and comfortable, openly sharing thoughts and feelings. In reality, few families meet this expectation 100% of the time, and in some cases, a person’s family is far from ideal, associated instead with stress, misunderstanding, anger, disconnection, and unmet needs. From our family of origin, we develop our expectations of others, communication skills, outlook on life, ability to give and receive love, and coping skills, among myriad other traits, and chronic family problems can have lasting effects.
Family problems from mild to severe will challenge every family at some point. These can result from behavioral and mental health issues in the family or from specific stressful events. Common family problems include:
- Financial Issues
- Substance Abuse
- Behavioral issues and academic concerns in children and adolescents
- Mental Health Concerns
- Separation, divorce, or blended family adjustments
- Chronic Illness
Whatever the source, distressing family dynamics can greatly interfere with the functioning of every family member, including extended family, although those living in the same household are likely to be impacted more significantly than those who live apart. When family members do not get along, the tension can impact each family member’s mental and physical health, relationships, and even his or her capacity for routine tasks. Evidence of family problems can materialize through repeated family conflicts, dramatic behavioral shifts in children and adolescents, mood swings, and depression. Fortunately, resolving family issues require the cooperation of everyone in the family, and this provides a great opportunity to strengthen family ties and interactions
Families can benefit from therapy when they experience any stressful event that may strain family relationships. The goal of family counseling is to promote understanding and collaboration among family members in order to solve the problems of one or more individuals. For example, if a child is having social and academic problems, therapy will focus on the family patterns that may contribute to the child’s acting out, rather than evaluating the child’s behavior alone. As the family uncovers the source of the problem, they can learn to support the child and other family members and work proactively on minimizing or altering the child’s unwanted behavior.