How to Know If Your Family Needs Family Counseling

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The most intimate group we’ll ever belong to is the family. It’s where we learn to share and to do battle, to communicate, to negotiate differences, and to celebrate accomplishments. Family is the safe huddle we come home to after a day out in the larger world. Family members provide the mirror that lets us recognize ourselves as individuals.

This means that when this very basic support system weakens or becomes unstable, it can affect all of our lives.

Fortunately, there are many options for getting help to rebuild the family unit. Family therapy is very effective in helping families return to each other.

Of course, all families have issues. Arguments spring up. Resentments fester. Trouble comes home. Like a human body, the organism of the family wants to heal itself, and in most cases the issues resolve themselves with time and caring. Knowing if that’s the case with your family in this current trouble is not always easy. The following situations are warning signs that this time your family may need the help of a therapist.

  • We don’t talk anymore. Does it get quiet around the dinner table? Families need to talk to one another so they can support one another in troubles, share laughter and sorrow, and just generally keep up with what’s going on. If your family is finding it hard to communicate around the table or elsewhere, it’s a valuable skill to regain.
  • Drama is queen. It only takes one family member in distress to throw off the whole family dynamic. Everyone hates me! You just don’t understand. I don’t know what’s wrong with me! Why doesn’t anyone listen? An emotionally charged individual doesn’t suffer alone; it’s an issue that affects everyone in the family.
  • I want to be alone. The opposite of the emotional family member is one who withdraws from the rest of the family. Is someone missing, either physically not there or so unengaged that they may as well be gone? People withdraw for many reasons.If you suspect that the problem is depression, the individual may need individual therapy, but family therapy will help the rest of you provide support and deal with your own feelings about the withdrawal.
  • What’s going on with the kids? Children are sensitive little sponges. If something is amiss with your family, they may be the first to realize it. They are also quick to let you know when they’re troubled, by acting out at home or at school. If something like that is going on with one of the children in your family, listen to what they’re telling you.
  • Somebody’s using. Alcohol and drug use is hard to admit, but if you suspect someone in the family is abusing drugs or alcohol, chances are that you’re right. It’s even more important to address this sort of problem as a family.

If your family needs the help of a therapist, it’s important to find the right therapist for you all. Your family physician, a local mental health center, or friends who’ve participated in therapy may have recommendations.

It’s ideal if your whole family attends the sessions together. Therapy with a missing family member is like a wagon with a missing wheel, but the members who do attend will benefit from improved communication, better understanding of what’s going on, and the opportunity to have their concerns heard. The missing member may quickly decide to join in with after seeing how the rest of you progress.

The skills your family learns in therapy aren’t just a one-time fix. They will strengthen your family to manage the next issue that comes along and help you maintain the strong base you all need to move through your lives.


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