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Family Therapy For Family Systems
Proverbs 14:1 says, "Every wise woman builds her house, but a foolish one tears it down with her own hands." In other words, if you're not building your family, you're tearing it down because decay is the natural state of things left untended. A family is a system, like a house. If the shingles leak, water rots the wood supporting walls and ceilings, wiring shorts out, termites infest, mold takes over, and the house is ruined. Just as a wise person doesn’t ignore a roof leak, neither does a wise person ignore family problems but takes action to repair them. Think of family therapy as roof repair for your family.
In our high-stress world, there are many issues that can arise in children, adolescents, and parents that have a destabilizing effect on the whole family. Some of these might be happening in your family:
Acute or chronic illness
Trauma – including sexual, physical, or emotional abuse or exposure to it
Anxiety or fear
Depression or withdrawal
Divorce – coping with or adjusting to life after
Remarriage and blended family issues
Adapting to a major change
There can also be issues with extended family like in-laws, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, ex-spouses, and other relations. Add to that the challenges of parenting, co-parenting, single-parenting, divorce, blending families, aging parents, father wounds, and mother issues, and you can see that families, especially as they grow, take work to keep healthy.
Family therapy focuses on helping your family develop and maintain a healthy family dynamic. The goal is to identify and address emotional, relational, psychological, spiritual, or behavioral issues in the family. If there is a problem with a member of your family or between members of your family, it is wise to seek family therapy.
Family Therapy: All Families Have Problems
All families have problems but when they do, the immediate response is shame and self-protection. If your child is struggling, as a parent you feel like you have failed. You also want to protect your child from humiliation. If you have a moral failure as a parent, your family will feel shame and want to protect its reputation. So, the natural instinct is to "keep it in-house" and don't let anyone know. Most families try to deal with big issues on their own, but they don’t know how and often they do more harm than good. Things may even get worse. Or they go into denial and pretend that things are fine, and they definitely get worse.
Guess what? You're not alone. You’d be amazed at what goes on behind the manicured lawns and “Love Lives Here” welcome mats of so many average American homes. Our counselors who hear about family problems every day can assure you that your family is not weird. Every family has struggles with something. Some struggles are bigger than others, but every family has something they need help with.
In a National Institutes of Health study of teenagers, 42% reported having been abused, 33% wanted to hurt themselves or someone else, 28% said there was conflict in the home, 27% had problems with their family, and 20% were concerned about their parent’s relationship. In addition, 27% worried about the mental health of family members, and 22% said a family member had a problem with alcohol or drugs.
In America, the family with two parents who stay together for life is not the reality for many families. 50% of U.S. marriages end in divorce or separation. 40% of children are born to mothers who are single or cohabiting with someone. 23% of children under age 18 live in a single-parent family. 40% of families are blended with at least one parent having a child from a previous relationship.
All that to say that whatever your family situation is or whatever your problems are, you’re not alone. Every family has something they need help with. There is a reason why the Bible says that we are to pray for another and encourage one another. We need help. That is why Christian Counseling Associates offers therapy for whatever issues your family is facing.
Family Therapy Gives Your Family Hope
In family therapy, you will set healthy boundaries, improve family dynamics and relationships, get coping skills, address dysfunctional interactions and behaviors, and get help with problem solving.
We offer counseling for divorce as well. We can also help you with parenting skills so you can be the best parent for your children that you can be. We are here for you if you are a single parent who may be dealing with depression and anxiety more than married parents. If you are co-parenting, you still want to be there for your child even though you and the other parent are no longer married, and we can walk with you and the other parent, together or individually, through that challenge. We can help you with parent-child issues, wounds of a father, mother issues, etc. And we can work with your child’s behavioral issues with child therapy techniques like play therapy.
What Happens In Family Therapy?
It depends on who the counselor is seeing. Sometimes counselors work with a child or adolescent using various age-appropriate techniques that enable children or teens to feel safe so they can open up. Other times counselors work with parents, usually regarding helping you sharpen your parenting skills. In family therapy, the whole family is the client and the counselor will bring in family members for some sessions and also see an individual family member or just the family members at the center of the conflict for some sessions. The sessions usually last about 50 minutes and there are around twelve sessions, which is short for therapy. However, the number of sessions depends on your family’s situation and needs.
The counselor will talk to everyone in the family to hear the issues that you’re dealing with from each family member’s perspective. When did the issue start? How has the family been dealing with it so far? Questions like that. The counselor will develop a treatment plan with the goal of improving the conflicts or problems. Know that no one will be blamed or labeled “the bad guy.” The only enemy that will be targeted is the negative pattern or behavior that is disrupting the family.
Your family will receive be enabled to communicate better, solve problems, and find ways to work together. You’ll set goals and work on ways to fulfill them. The problem may or may not go away, but you will have new skills to cope with the situation in a healthier way. There will also be the empowerment of knowing that your family is “in this together.”
With children and teens, the counselor will focus on helping them process feelings and experiences, which can be difficult sometimes, especially for young children. So, our counselors will use methods to help children express themselves non-verbally, such as play therapy or art therapy. The therapist might do therapy that involves playing games that teach coping concepts, drawing, building, writing, pretending, doing experiments as well as talking. We also might use EMDR (Eye movement, desensitization, reprocessing), which relies less on talking and can be very helpful with teenagers. The counselor might use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) where children and teens learn and practice various strategies for managing their behaviors at home or in school. You can ask your therapist about his or her techniques when you meet for your free consultation.
Common Objections To Family Therapy
"Family therapy takes too long; it’s easier to medicate children.”
Overmedicating children is a problem. Medication can do more harm than good to a child’s development. With children, drugs should be a last resort, not a first resort. Talk is a powerful medicine. It harnesses the power of a family to heal itself. And it usually only takes about 12 sessions. Isn’t your child worth three months of family therapy? Sure, they are!
“The therapist will blame the parents.”
Blame is a four-letter word in counseling. Counselors who blame their clients lose their clients and should lose their license. Blaming accomplishes nothing. The only “bad guy” in the counseling room is the negative pattern or behavior that is disrupting the family. That is where the focus will be and where it will stay. If someone starts blaming a family member, the counselor will stop it and redirect the focus back onto the problem, not the person.
“Getting the family to weekly counseling will be a scheduling nightmare.”
Yes, it would be a nightmare if that were the case. With sports and all the extra-curricular events kids have these days, it’s hard enough to get the whole family to the dinner table, much less to a therapist’s office once a week. Typically, family therapy doesn’t gather every member of the family for every session. Usually, the family gathers for the first session, then the therapist works with just the parents or just the child, and brings the family together again once or twice. Therapy will be done in a way that makes sense for your family.
Common Objections Kids Have To Family Therapy
“The counselor will tell my parents everything we talked about.”
Confidentiality is important to everyone, including children and teenagers. The counseling room is a private space and conversations between counselors are clients, even kids, is confidential. The counselor will not gang up with the parents against the child or teen. The counselor will give updates to the parents about things that mom and dad can help with at home, but won’t go into specifics.
“I am embarrassed to go to counseling.”
If you as parents have used shame or blame or “going to a counselor” as a kind of punishment (“If you don’t stop this, you’re going to have to go to a counselor.”), this response is to be expected. The child feels like he or she is a bad person and therefore has to go to a counselor. It’s better to be honest and talk to your child about what has happened and why you need help to talk about your worries and feelings in a safe place, plus it will be fun and the counselor is very nice.
“I’m afraid to be left alone; I want my parents to go with me.”
Yes, you should be involved in your child’s therapy, especially at the beginning while the therapeutic bond is being formed between the child and the therapist. There are some things you will need to talk with the therapist about as a family, but then, once the child is comfortable with the therapist, there will be things that need to be discussed in private.
Take The Next Step
If you’re ready to get help for divorce, parenting, parent-child issues, psychological or behavioral issues with your child or adolescent, it’s easy to make an appointment with one of our trained Christian counselors. Just reach out to us here or call 972-422-8383.
A family is a system, like a house...
Behind the welcome mat, families have problems...
Family therapy can help you set healthy boundaries...
The therapist might do therapy that involves art or playing games...
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