Whether we like it or not, family are usually the ones who know us best. When family life is good, it’s full of love and offers us a safe haven to return to when life wears us down.
But sometimes things fall off track. Life and people change, but family dynamics and patterns tend to remain the same. What worked when we were younger might not work so well for us now.
The ability to resolve conflict is central to family life. But every now and then these conflicts run too deep, and we need to take a step back and have a closer look at where things went wrong.
Family counselling involves bringing the whole family together to explore their issues as a unit. These issues might concern one individual specifically, or they might be more complex with no obvious cause or starting point. Whatever the issue, family counselling works from the basis that these issues can be worked through together as a family.
At your first session, your counsellor or therapist will try to understand what it is you’d like to achieve in your counselling sessions. Time will be spent exploring situations and experiences from the perspective of each member of the family. This allows each family member to step into the others shoes and see their side of the story, and understand the impact of their own behaviour or actions.
Family counselling tends to be solution-focused and is therefore generally short-term, lasting around 6 to 20 sessions. Sometimes one person might choose to continue working through their issues in individual counselling after the sessions finish. This might be suggested by your counsellor or therapist, although it will always be optional.
Every family is unique - some have two parents, some single parents and others no parents at all. In family counselling, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to deciding what constitutes “family”. Family counselling can incorporate as many - or as few - family members as you decided upon. It might involve parents, siblings, step-parents, partners, grandparents, family friends, distant cousins… Every family is different which means each situation will as unique as the next one.
There’s no one reason why problems arise in families, and any number of issues can be addressed in your family counselling sessions. You might also find that you start counselling to look at one specific issue but it leads you somewhere different entirely.
Below are some of the most common reasons families might seek out counselling for support and guidance:
Just because you’re related doesn’t mean you’re going to share the same views. Disagreements are common in families; it’s how we handle them that really matters. Because we know each other so well, we might say things or express ourselves in a way we wouldn’t dream of doing with other people. On some levels, this might be a positive thing - but it can also lead to a lot of hurt and upset if we don’t take the necessary steps to make amends. Small issues can turn into big ones if we don’t face up to them.
Some members of the family might naturally feel closer or more aligned to each other, and this is only natural. But this can have negative ramifications elsewhere if others start to feel excluded or pushed out. These types of hurts are difficult to express, but if left unacknowledged can become toxic and destructive to the family dynamic over time.
If you’re worrying about family issues, it’s important to understand that you don’t have to deal with these concerns alone. Family counselling is an opportunity to bring everyone into the room to shed light on your issues, and ultimately find healthier ways of moving forward together.
If you would like to learn more about what family counselling can offer you and your family, we have a range of accredited family counsellors that can help. Speak to one of our team to get help to find a therapist.