Family Counseling

Most of my experience has been with adolescents age 16 and older, with adults, and with older adults.  Therefore, if you are looking for family therapy involving young children, I’d be happy to refer you to another therapist who has more experience with younger clientele.  That said…

Here are a few examples of contexts in which I do family counseling.

  • Helping a family to work on relationship dynamics related to illness or caregiving. This includes both physical and mental illness.  Most often the work I have done in this circumstance involves one care recipient and one or two family members.
  • Helping members of a family to resolve conflicts or seek reconciliation.  This could be siblings, a parent and their adult children, extended family, step family or blended family members, or any other combination of family members.
  • Helping a family through the grieving process.

Family Counseling vs. Collaterals

It is not unusual for someone in individual therapy to involve collaterals in their treatment.  This is when they invite a family member(s), spouse or friend(s) to join them in their session once, occasionally, or periodically.  The difference between involving collaterals in individual counseling vs. getting family counseling is this:

  • If you are receiving individual counseling and choose to involve collaterals in your therapy, you are the primary patient and the focus of treatment.  Bringing collaterals in on your treatment is often done so that they might better understand your difficulties, so that they can offer you emotional support while you are in session, or to help you communicate about something that would be difficult for you to communicate about outside of counseling.
  • If you are receiving family counseling, then the family as a unit is the patient and the focus of treatment.  In other words, the focus is on the relationship rather than on one individual.

Combining Individual and Family Therapy

Often, the need for family work becomes apparent after some time in individual therapy.  If this happens, we have a couple of options to choose from.

You might decide that family therapy is not necessary, and simply bring in family members as collaterals.  You may do so once or a handful of times to focus on a particular issue or conflict.  In this case, the service being provided is more like mediation, and you remain the therapist’s primary patient.

However, if the family issues are more severe and require ongoing counseling, then it is recommended that you receive family therapy from someone other than your individual therapist.  This is because your individual therapist has heard much more of your perspective than the others’ and will therefore tend to be biased or skewed in their understanding of the family’s dynamics.  When starting family therapy, the intake process will involve all the family members.

Transitioning from Couples to Family Therapy

A similar complication may come up with couples therapy.

You can always bring other family members in as collaterals once, occasionally, or periodically.  This may be for a variety of reasons… such as getting their perspective, support, and cooperation, or communicating your needs or boundaries to the other family members whom you invite into your therapy sessions.  However, the couple remains the focus of couples therapy.

If you decide that the main problem lies not between the two of you, but between the two of you and one set of parents (for example), then you may want to start fresh with a new therapist who will see all four of you from the start, and will therefore have a more balanced perspective than someone who has been hearing your side (not your parents’ side) of the story for weeks or months.

Questions?

Please don’t hesitate to call if you have any questions about therapy.  There is no obligation, and I’m happy to help answer your questions.  You can reach me at 708-429-6999, extension 229.  Or you can e-mail me through the contact page on this website.

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