Are you thinking about family counseling?
It may well be one of the best parenting decisions you will ever make. Here’s why.
Reasons to come to family counseling
When families come to counseling, their first visit is usually triggered by problem behavior from a child.
It’s a bad time for the family, and the focus is very much on the problem, usually quite narrowly defined as one individual’s unwanted behavior. This is the famous phenomenon of the ‘identified problem child.’
But the seemingly individual problem can often be an expression of underlying issues within the family system and, if there is no further exploration or goal setting, another problem will often crop up almost as soon as the first one is resolved.
Family counseling presents a much broader opportunity not only to learn and apply problem solving skills, but also for setting goals for the family as a whole. A positive attitude towards family counseling is a great tool for good parenting.
Solving Problems and Setting Goals
In family counseling, both are well-established methods that focus on a positive, achievable outcome.
Setting goals is in itself a positive experience: the focus shifts towards the future, and the family can feel empowered to dream about and shape itself more like the family it wants to be.
In family counseling, setting goals happens on several levels.
- Setting goals for each individual family member.
What are my own personal goals and hopes? How can I achieve them? How do they fit in with the way I perceive my family? Can I be myself and a good family member at the same time?
- Setting goals for the family as a unit.
What kind of family do we want to be? How can we deal with the negative image of the family that we all share by now? What are the best moments in our family life? How can we expand them and build on them for the future?
- Setting goals for the family within the wider community.
What are the individual and family goals in connection with schools, work, neighbors, friends, and extended family? How has the family been impacted by these connections in the past and where do we want to go now?
- Setting goals for the counseling process.
What do individual members expect from the family counseling? How does the counseling process fit in with the family goals overall? And what is expected of the counselor?
The counseling process
The family counselor will collect all your different perspectives, frame both potential conflicts and support within the family, and encourage constructive discussion.
The next stage is setting goals that can be achieved relatively quickly, such as realistic, manageable changes of behavior, updated communication strategies, and giving more time and attention to each other.
Throughout the course of the counseling sessions, setting goals is tested in real life and new problem solving skills can be learned, exactly when they are appropriate.
The family learns, through experience in everyday life, that change is possible.
And that adaptive problem solving skills can make change sustainable.
With the guidance of the professional counselor, the skills of solving problems and setting goals evolve constantly. All family members can feel empowered to create the life and the family they want, and can learn how to negotiate the inevitable differences between them without losing sight of the common goal.
Is family counseling worth the effort?
Is all of this hard work?
But the rewards are high.
Every family member learns skills that will last a life time.
Problem behavior will change for the better and new problems can be experienced as an opportunity for setting goals again and learning from the experience.
Family life is again full of potential. There is a lot to discover and a lot to experience together. Family members spend time together because they want to and remember what the family means to them. Parents are empowered by family counseling and children often see their parents in a different light.
Family counseling makes families stronger and more resilient.
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