Family is the basic unit or the building block of society and our communities. While a family might live by a basic moral code that every member follows, individual characters in some situations are bound to clash or cause friction when they come into play.
In years gone by, and even in contemporary times, whenever incidents occur, what happens is that the issue gets hushed up; swept under the carpet — leaving one or both parties resentful toward the other because of the feeling that one has been dealt with unjustly.
Family counselling — sometimes called family therapy, when undertaken by families, can help individuals make amends for grievances caused in order to get grudges forgiven and done with. It is necessary in order for society to have successful family units. Each individual in a family has unique needs that cannot be catered for with a “one size fits all” approach, and this is where family counselling comes in to identify and understand such needs in order to help create a balance for the well being of the family unit.
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Goals and Aims
As stated earlier, a family can have serious issues that have been left without being addressed; or simply swept under the carpet because of the lack of an avenue for expression or redress. For some others, it has to do with coming to terms with a situation that suddenly changes the balance of the family.
For example, the death of a member or the announcement of a serious health issue can end up straining relations between the surviving members. Such an event can cause family members to drift apart as each person tries to process the situation in their own way.
Also, some families are not necessarily bound by blood. For such, there could be cultural differences creating friction between some members. And there’s the need for therapy to facilitate understanding to enable healthy interactions.
The aim of family counselling is to help a family communicate in order to work together — so as to heal the psychological and emotional problems that are tearing the family apart.
How it benefits the family
Over the years, family counselling has in many cases, proven to be very effective in helping treat or address problems in families. Through therapy, many families have come to understand and appreciate what healthy boundaries are and should be. Also, there are family dynamics and patterns to be identified.
Enhanced communication within families often leads to reduced incidents of conflict — which come as a result of one developing better anger management skills. In addition to that, once there’s a deeper empathy within members, improved problem solving naturally follows.
As noted earlier in this article, family relations can become strained during times of crisis. This can result in distrust between members, leading to the loss of the support system that might be in existence.
Some of the benefits that family therapy can bring in such situations include bringing the family together to resolve to overcome the existing crisis. For this to happen, there has to be trust between the members — arising from honest interactions and agendas.
In families where sources of stress and tension are reduced, it’s easy to develop supportive family environments. When there’s a real support system in place, it’s easier for people to resolve conflict and forgive each other. This makes it easier to even reintegrate the isolated back into the family circles.
It is known that conflict resolution, communication, and problem-solving, are skills which are necessary for having a healthily functioning family unit. These skills can be enhanced through counselling; as providing all family members with these skills — which are tools needed to help facilitate healing, is the focus of family counselling, or therapy. When these skills are improved upon for each individual, there’s an increase in the potential of the family successfully addressing and overcoming problems that arise in the family.
When do you request family counselling?
- When the family starts getting disconnected. There will be many signs that show the family isn’t talking enough. Rather than direct conversations, you’re instead getting tagged in social media posts. Children, and maybe some adults become isolated and closer to their smartphones than the people sitting and living just across the room from them. It is common knowledge that the more intimate we get with our smartphones and the virtual world, the less connected we are in the real world. And for families going through such times, counselling is an effective way to get them to unplug from the virtual and get more involved in the real world.
- Drifting apart. As people advance in age and develop in mind, their needs tend to change as well. It’s natural for people to no longer be entertained by the same activities that once thrilled them in times past.
When families are going through such stages, signing up for counselling can help successfully deal with the situation without the unnecessary misunderstandings that are certain to happen — as the counsellor acts as a mediator who keeps communication channels open.
- Keeping secrets. While being open in a relationship is important for communication, it is perfectly normal to have a few things you would want to keep to yourself. This is a natural thing that shouldn’t hurt anyone. However, once you start doing things with the aim and purpose of keeping things away from your partner and even spouse, you’re becoming dangerously secretive and that could eventually lead to blown up situations. Signing up for family counselling sessions can help uncover the root causes which necessitated such secretive behaviour — helping to bridge the communication gap.
- Holding grudges. In every family, when one person is holding a grudge against the other, it affects the communication between all others — disturbing the family balance. If any or both parents are holding things against each other, or one child refuses to speak to their sibling(s) because of grievances, then, the family needs counselling. Grudges build resentment, which often leads to bitterness and needless fighting. For some people, they’ve held grudges for way too long for them to even remember the exact thing that was done to wrong them. Family counselling is how such people can help rebuild the fabric of their family; which is being torn down.
Who to recruit as your family therapist
As noted above, each different type of situation requires a unique type of therapy in dealing with it. For this reason, a family therapist has to be prepared to take on various roles. In order for that to happen, your therapist must have undergone a lot of training, aside formal education and testing — so as to adequately be up to the task.
The ideal therapist should have experience in treating issues related to grief, depression and anxiety, LGBTQ matters, as well as substance abuse. Also, domestic violence, marital problems, infertility, and behavioral problems (child and adolescent), are issues one should be able to handle tactfully.
A therapist’s education and training is vital as it allows the professional have a wide range of skills and improvisations to help the clients who come for guidance, with their wide range of problems.
Observing how people interact within units, and using that to highlight relational or behavioral patterns that are problematic, are some qualities the ideal professional should possess. For families that are going through transitional crises such as divorces or death, should be able to offer guidance that eases the pressure on each individual.
Suggesting and offering healthy alternatives to replace dysfunctional behaviors is something a therapist should be able to do.
Counselling is very beneficial to families at different stages of trauma or strain. While there are issues that have not been listed in the article, one thing we can all agree on is that relationships can be healed and issues dealt with through family therapy.
Whenever a family finds itself going though situations that are ‘beyond it’, the best thing to do is find a qualified therapist and undergo family counselling.