What is Family Counselling?
We know that family relationships can be difficult to navigate and sometimes you need some extra support and help. We know that there are complicated relationships within one family system and it can be difficult to know where to start. Family therapy can be flexible to meet your family’s needs and goals. Family therapists can take a variety of different approaches depending on the size of the family, the types of relationships that exist and the type of support the family is looking for. You may be asking yourself “what is family therapy?”
Family therapy is a type of therapy that works with the whole family as a system to resolve conflicts, past hurts, and improve relationships and communication skills.
Family therapy can include all members of a family unit or even just some of them. For example, you may want to attend family therapy with just one parent in order to focus on that relationship. You could also attend family therapy with your sibling(s) or just one child. Family therapy can be flexible in order to address the needs of your family. At times, your family therapist may choose to have a session with just you or just a member of your family in order to get a better understanding of what’s going on in your family unit. The goal is always to bring you and your family members together to work through conflicts with a safe mediator.
We’ve answered some frequently asked questions about family therapy so you can know where to start as you embark on this journey of healing together.
Can we do family therapy if not everyone in our family wants to go to therapy?
Yes! There may be a wide variety of reasons why the whole family cannot attend therapy all together. Working on one part of your family system is known to help the whole family system change. Family therapy is family therapy when there are two or more members of the family present. Family therapy is most effective when all parties who are attending are willing to be there.
How can family therapy help?
Common areas that family therapy can help with are: setting boundaries, increasing communication skills, changing patterns of conflict resolution, working through past hurts, improving future relationships, working with blended families, processing divorce or separation, generational patterns, intergenerational trauma, and grief. Oftentimes family therapy addresses a number of these areas all at once.
What if some members of my family are not in the same city?
We are so happy to offer virtual family therapy for this very reason. Counselling is regulated differently by province or territory and country. Depending on where the members of your family are you will need to chat with your counsellor to see if they are able to see all members of your family.
Will we have to talk about everything that has ever happened in our family?
You do not need to talk about the whole history of your family if you do not want to. Your family therapist will ask you what your goals are for therapy both individually and as a family to see how to best work with you and your family. If there are certain things that you do not feel comfortable discussing in therapy you can speak with your therapist about that and they will work with you to make therapy a safe and productive space.
What if we have different goals?
It is common that family members do have different goals coming into therapy. This is because each person has their own unique perspective and may feel more strongly about some issues than others. For example, one person may have the goal of better communication in the family and another person may want to heal a past hurt in family therapy. Sometimes these goals are different but related to the same cycle or problem and sometimes they are different. Your family therapist will work with you all to see how you can each get your goals and needs met in counselling together.
What if someone in my family has been abusive?
Family therapy can support family members in healing from abuse together. This does not always mean that the abuser will be part of family therapy. If the abuse is no longer happening it is up to you if you would like to address it in therapy and if you would like that family member to be part of therapy. If there is currently abuse happening in your family it is important to share this with your therapist so they can support you in safety and healing. If there are minors involved in abuse it is ethically and legally mandated for the therapist to report this.
How will this be different than us just talking about it together?
Emotions can be overwhelming and difficult to manage when there have been historical and repeated hurts. Having a family therapist can help mediate and manage the emotions in the conversation so that you don’t have to. The therapist’s role is to facilitate healthy discussion, sharing, and exploration in the family as well as to teach new ways of interacting in the family. Your therapist is trained to handle conflict and see patterns emerge and is an objective third party which can be helpful.