When it comes to a conflict or an issue in your family, do you all navigate it swimmingly or do you flounder and drown in a sea of frustration?
While social media may paint a different picture of how you’d like your family to be portrayed, let’s face it, no family is “perfect.” Even if you get along with members of your family most of the time, there’s bound to be one hiccup or another that arises.
Some families seem to retain or regain a sense of wholeness through these challenging times, while others become more splintered and broken. That’s where family therapy offers families a way through these storms of life.
What is family therapy/family counseling?
Family therapy is a form of psychological counseling that looks at the family unit as a system and how that system is working between one another. The family unit can expand even outside of the initial family to close family friends, teachers and other people in the family’s life.
“Whether a single-parent home or blended family, the issues each family faces are unique to that family,” said Jerimya Fox, a licensed professional counselor and a doctor of behavioral health at Banner Behavioral Health Hospital. “This is because each person in the family system brings with them their own life experiences, beliefs, behaviors and ways of communicating.”
Family therapy can help a family through a difficult period, life transitions or behavioral health issues. Some common reasons for seeking family therapy may include:
- Improving communication and listening skills
- Sharpening parenting skills
- Behavioral and emotional problems in children and adolescents
- Developing healthy boundaries
- Changes in family dynamics (i.e., death, divorce, adoption, deployments)
- Major trauma that impacts the whole family (i.e., domestic abuse, natural disasters, addiction and substance abuse)
- Unexpected loss
Benefits of family therapy
Family therapy can use techniques from cognitive, behavioral and experiential therapies. All are designed to help families improve communication and problem-solving skills, build empathy and understanding, foster connection and build trust and support.
Without getting into the weeds of the various forms of family therapy, it’s important to know that the highest success rate of any therapy is linked to the family and therapist’s relationship and not the form of therapy used. If you and your family are committed to therapy and you have a therapist skilled in navigating your area of concern, family therapy may be a great option for you.
Finding a Family Therapist
Once you’ve decided to seek help or support for your family, it can be a little overwhelming to determine which specialist you should see. Between a psychologist and a licensed marriage and family therapist, there are many types of mental health professionals out there, each bringing different training, expertise and insight.
“Licensed marriage and family therapists have specialized training and experience in families and couples, but there are other mental health professionals who have specialized training in family systems,” Dr. Fox said. “You may want to look around and contact multiple therapists to get an idea of where the good fit would be.”
Before scheduling sessions with the first specialist you find, consider the following:
- Education and experience: Are they a licensed mental health professional? What experience do they have with your family’s problem?
- Comfort level: Is this someone your family will be comfortable with?
- Insurance coverage: Are they covered under your insurance plan, or how much will you be charged for each session?
- Location: Are they conveniently located near everyone in the family? Do they provide teletherapy appointments?
“During COVID-19, many therapists have gone virtual to accommodate families during these uncertain times,” Dr. Fox noted. “Don’t let the pandemic be a barrier to seeking appropriate care.”
How many sessions are required?
The specific number of family therapy sessions is dependent upon your family’s situation and the type of family therapy required, but it is often short-term. Sessions typically run about 50 minutes to an hour and may require some individual therapy as well.
What if a family member refuses to attend?
If one particular family member isn’t willing to come in, don’t hesitate to seek out therapy for yourself and others within your family unit.
“It’s still valuable and important for the others to attend,” Dr. Fox said. “Why shouldn’t you benefit from learning the skills to interact with everyone in your family unit? Learning coping and communication skills can transcend to the person who was initially unwilling to come. Hopefully with time, that family member will come around.”
Get help today
Family therapy can’t solve family conflict overnight, but it can help give your family the tools to navigate through tough situations in a healthy and productive way. Let our Banner behavioral health specialists help you. To learn more about family therapy and other therapeutic programs, visit bannerhealth.com or call 800-254-4357.