Couples and families are often in need of counselling but knowing the advantages and disadvantages of family therapy before you schedule that first appointment is crucial. Choosing the right therapist is also important so knowing what to look for can produce the positive results you want.
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Family therapy is utilized for a number of reasons and below are some of the things to remember when this is the route that you’ve chosen to take.
Why Family Therapy?
Couples and families can find themselves in the middle of some very tough situations. This includes divorce, an upcoming second marriage, addiction problems for one of its members, or even having to deal with a death in the family. Family therapy can be a true miracle worker in these and many other circumstances.
Just why is coming together as a family for counseling an effective method? There are several reasons, and they include:
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- They can learn better ways to communicate with one another.
- They can resolve all types of issues related to siblings.
- They can define and understand their specific roles in the family unit.
- Everyone in the family can learn his or her strengths and weaknesses.
- They can learn effective ways to resolve a number of issues.
- They can discover ways that parents and children can communicate better.
- They can discuss and find solutions for various problems and challenges that they are currently experiencing.
Situations that involve addiction or the sudden death of a loved one can wreak havoc on your home life, but family counseling is a viable option that can help put your family back together again. It can reduce tension and stress and help get back the honesty and trust that may be missing. It also teaches family members how to forgive, and it can even help reunite a family with other family members.
What Family Therapy Is Not
Of course, when considering family therapy, you’ll likely run into a slew of misconceptions about the practice. Therefore, it is important to discuss what is not involved in family counseling sessions. Family therapy is not:
- Just for couples experiencing marital problems
- Ineffective when only some of the family members attend the sessions
- Only for people who have children with behavioral problems
- An excuse to blame parents for their children’s problems
Indeed, family counseling sessions get at the root of the problem. Instead of placing blame on any one member of the family, they work through the problem and find effective solutions. Family therapy is not just there for educating people but is a legitimate type of counseling that has been proven to work for most families.
Certain situations, such as divorce, can leave all of the family members feeling devastated. Family therapy cannot make situations disappear. It can, however, help each family member to cope better with the situation so that each one can understand and process it. This is the only way to come up with solutions that can help each family member move forward.
Another thing that family therapy is not is a “one size fits all” type of counseling. What works for one person may not work for another. This is why an experienced therapist will personalize each treatment plan so that each family member gets what he or she needs to feel better and deal with the situation at hand.
Not Just for Emotional Problems
While it’s true that family therapy can help with all types of mental issues, including depression, it can help with many other issues as well. These include:
- Financial or money worries
- Determining a successful child custody arrangement
- The death or serious illness of a family member
- Infidelity issues
- The care of a special needs family member
- Separation or divorce
- Problems in school
- Conflicts between family members
Studying the advantages and disadvantages of family therapy teaches you that regardless of what the problem is, if it feels bigger than you can handle, family counseling just may be the answer. After all, managing struggles and challenges on your own — both behavioral and otherwise — is sometimes ineffective.
You Are Safe There
Perhaps the biggest advantage of attending family therapy sessions is that you are always safe while you are there. The therapist is obliged to keep everything you say a secret, which means that NO ONE can learn what you said or did while in therapy. It is a completely safe environment every time.
It is also an open environment. In therapy, it is often easier to open up to one another than it is to do so when you’re alone with one another. Just knowing that there is a licensed therapist there to help at any point is enough to give most patients the self-confidence to say what they want and need to say.
In fact, if you are unable to reach out to a family member on your own, it is a good idea to consider family therapy. This safe, open environment can be just the atmosphere that many people need to bring things out in the open so that they can take care of the problems plaguing the family.
Working Together to Improve Things
Another important aspect of family therapy is the ability to learn what to do to work together as a family unit. Often, the lack of communication is at the root of many family problems. Family therapy teaches you how to open up the lines of communication so that you can say what you need to say. This, in turn, allows for much better communication between family members.
Let’s face it; family issues are much more likely to be resolved when family members communicate correctly and regularly with one another. Working together is always better than trying to manage a family situation one by one. Family therapy teaches family members how to work together in all aspects of their lives.
Addiction and Recovery Issues
Family therapy can also help all family members deal with one person’s addiction and recovery struggles. When someone is in this situation, it doesn’t just affect that individual; it affects every member of the family. From substance abuse to eating disorders, the right family therapist can help every member of the family move forward, tackling the initial problem head-on.
In addition to helping the client overcome addiction or recovery issues, the therapist teaches the other family members to cope with the illness. This includes helping those members establish a positive relationship with the client regardless of how serious the issue is.
Naturally, the issue having to do with the advantages and disadvantages of family therapy is never complete without discussing the important role that family therapists play in the lives of those who have certain addictions or psychological-behavioral disorders. In fact, this is one of the most important roles that the family therapist has.
Family Therapy Works
Family therapy can strengthen the family bonds, create more self-esteem within family members, improve the members’ physical and mental health, teach necessary coping skills, and even teach you skills that can be beneficial outside of the family unit.
When family problems are not addressed, it can have long-term consequences. In many instances, family members stop speaking to one another altogether, which is never pleasant. Family therapy can prevent that from happening. Even if you believe that it is too late to help your family, this is likely not the case.
Family therapists help families in all types of situations and regardless of how long the problem has been going on. If you think that your problem is unique or too severe to be helped by family therapy, think again. It is very likely that the results will be even better than what you thought they would be.
Are There Disadvantages or Limitations to Family Therapy?
As with any other issue, every discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of family therapy must address the other side of the coin. Some people believe that there are disadvantages or limitations when it comes to family therapy. It is good for people to be aware of these things before visiting a family therapist for the first time.
One situation that many people feel is a disadvantage to family therapy is that occasionally, the problem at hand is sidetracked when family members get off-course. They can even start talking about things that happened in the past. These are usually things unrelated to the issue they’re trying to improve. In some instances, this can actually make things worse rather than better.
Another disadvantage is the cost of family therapy, which is usually quite high. Even though insurance often pays for the sessions, they do not always pay as much as they do for other illnesses. This is why it is so important to learn up front what the therapist’s fees are before you come in for the first session.
Opening up in a Family Therapy Session
Sometimes family members feel reluctant to talk about their feelings in front of other family members. Although having a licensed therapist in the room can enable someone to become bolder and express his or her feelings, the opposite can also happen. Some family members simply don’t want to open up and contribute to the therapy session.
Another concern regarding family therapy is the effect it has on children and teenagers. Often, young people may not completely understand the concept behind family therapy, and they may even be afraid of it. This is why, in addition to family counseling, many experts recommend that teens and children also receive individual counseling.
Young people may simply feel overwhelmed in family therapy sessions, and they may be reluctant to speak up and talk about what is bothering them. In fact, family therapy may actually cause children and teens to be more closed up than before. This can have a very negative effect on the results of the sessions.
Yet another disadvantage of family therapy is that it takes time. Unlike individual sessions that concentrate on only one individual, family therapy has to work with several individuals. This takes time so even if the challenges that the family is facing aren’t that serious, it may take months or even years to find the right solution.
Patients can also feel that family therapy sessions are miracle workers and can fix anything. Although family therapy sessions do work wonders when it comes to putting the family unit back together, they cannot do this alone. The patients themselves have to be willing to work hard and do their part in order for it to be successful.
After all, patients who come into family therapy sessions expecting the therapist to do all of the work will be sorely disappointed in the results. Much as with other aspects of life, you get out of it what you put into your therapy sessions. This means that if you’re expecting great results with no work on your part, you are going to be dissatisfied in the end.
Worst of all, family therapy doesn’t always work for everyone. Although the success rates for family therapy are quite high, there are still circumstances when it causes a conflict that cannot be resolved in the therapist’s office. This is extremely rare, but it does happen.
Family therapy is difficult. It brings up a lot of painful issues, and it is hard emotionally on each family member in a different way. Does this mean that you should never try family therapy? Of course not. However, it does mean that you should study the pros and cons of this type of counseling before you get started. This will prepare you for whatever is likely to happen next.
A Few Final Thoughts
Researching the advantages and disadvantages of family therapy means that you may find information that surprises you. Most of what you find, however, will please you. Family therapy can help with most problems that are causing families pain. The amount of time it takes to see results varies with each family. However, once you get a committed professional therapist, you are all but guaranteed to get the results that you were hoping for.
If your family is going through any type of trauma, it is good to know there are experienced family therapists who are there to help.
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