There are many myths about family life: Problems happen only in dysfunctional families. Children of good parents will be good. Parenting should not be stressful. It is easy to find balance between work, family and personal life.
All of these statements are not only false but harmful to families struggling with issues they cannot resolve by themselves. Unfortunately, one of the most common myths about families and family problems is this: Only the worst families go to therapy.
Benefits of Family Therapy
Even families that are physically, emotionally and psychologically healthy may experience issues that are too complex or troubling to fix without help. When these problems interfere with normal family functions, a licensed professional counselor can provide helpful strategies and resources for the family as a whole and to the individual family members.
The Most Common Issues Brought to Family Therapy
Therapists, counselors and related organizations report several issues that bring families to therapy.
- Financial distress or disagreements – Whether budgeting conflicts, job losses, overspending or a simple lack of funds, money matters lead to deeper issues of anger and distrust.
- Child-rearing and discipline – As families grow, different personalities emerge and relationships get complicated. Decisions must be made about how children should be raised, how rules will be established and enforced, and what the expectations are for school and social life. The personal and family backgrounds of parents influence their perspective, often making compromise and consensus difficult.
- Divorce and blended families – Before, during and after divorce and remarriage, families encounter problems for which they are not prepared. Children may be confused or angry, and even the best-intentioned parents may need assistance navigating the stages of loss and readjustment.
- Grief – Although death is a natural part of life and many families experience the loss of loved ones without confusion, some adults and children have difficulty assimilating the stages of grief.
- Anger, abuse and violence – An underlying current of anger in the home can worsen any other problems a family may be experiencing, even if the anger is displayed by only one family member.
- Communication challenges – Like anger, the lack of clear communication or the presence of different communication styles can magnify issues.
Other life situations — chronic illness, mental health concerns, substance abuse — are also reported to counselors as disrupting overall family health.
Family vs. Individual Counseling
Counselors commonly encourage individual clients to involve family members in therapy. At times this can mean bringing entire families into the sessions to investigate the home environment and dynamics.
The opposite can also be true. When working with families, counselors may recommend individual sessions to specific family members. When this happens, the strategies will work in tandem, for both individuals and family units, to strengthen and reinforce a therapy plan.
It is important to point out that individual therapy sessions are usually quite different than family sessions. Inexperienced therapists must learn to multitask, hearing all of the stories and comments while watching reactions and body language and listening for verbal responses.
Additionally, some individual clients do not wish to involve their friends or family members in therapy. And some counselors limit their practice to individuals. Counseling Today senior writer Laurie Meyers notes, “Counselors who prefer to work primarily with individual clients shouldn’t disregard the influence of family when treating these clients. ACA President Robert Smith believes it is important for all counselors to learn as much as possible about a new client’s social systems and family in the initial sessions.”
A master’s degree in counseling from Lamar University will prepare you to provide quality counseling for individuals and families who need help working through personal and relational problems. The online Master of Education in Counseling and Development with a Specialization in Marriage, Couple and Family Counseling includes coursework in human growth and development, counseling skills, and individual and group counseling techniques, to name a few areas. This comprehensive educational program trains students to meet the requirements to work as a counseling professional in the state of Texas.
As Meyers states, “A dysfunctional family environment has myriad effects on its members — effects that are intricately woven by factors such as personalities, communication abilities, attachment issues and sometimes even family violence.” As a professional counselor specializing in services for families, couples and individuals, you will have unlimited opportunities to make a difference in the lives of many people. Whether their issues are simple or complex, individuals and families will benefit from you and the knowledge you acquire through the Master of Education in Counseling and Development program at Lamar University.