Every family experiences its ups and downs. There will be times when parents argue, children don’t get along and no one seems to have much in common. Even the closest of families will experience conflict at one time or another. But when a family is faced with a tragedy, such as death or divorce, or a health challenge, such as illness, many in the family find themselves struggling to cope. Sometimes a family conflict starts with one person, like a parent faced with a serious illness, or a beloved grandparent diagnosed with dementia. However, even challenges that seem to be tied to one person can often place a serious strain on their family members.
Family therapy is short-term group counseling designed to address an issue or conflict between several members of the same family. Family therapy is typically conducted by one of our licensed marriage and family therapists. It can be tailored to address a number of issues, including finances, divorce, mental illness or conflicts between parents and children.
Although family therapy isn’t a new concept, it’s one that many of our clients aren’t familiar with. The idea of sharing one’s personal thoughts and feelings with other people can sometimes seem awkward or uncomfortable. We get it — but we also find that when our clients experience family therapy and work through challenges together, they often find that the discomfort and awkward feelings are worth the renewed sense of togetherness and peace that comes from sharing.
You might have heard the term “dysfunctional family” thrown around in reference to family therapy. We find that this term isn’t a good way to describe our families, because it refers to just about every family out there. No family is perfect — every family goes through periods where they aren’t functioning well or they’re struggling to work together to face challenges. Even the closest of families aren’t always equipped to face some of the hard stuff life throws at them.
Here’s what you can expect to happen in family therapy:
1. Identify The Problem
Family therapy isn’t designed to place “blame” on one specific family member. It’s not there to tell someone they’re doing it right and others that they need to shape up. In some cases, the reason a family needs assistance may be obvious. Parents may be helping children navigate their messy divorce. A loved one may have passed away unexpectedly. In other cases, the problem may not be as obvious. Adult children may be experiencing tension caring for their elderly parents. A family may be struggling to get along after a disabled grandfather moves in with them. Family therapy is designed to help families get to the root of their conflict in order to develop practical solutions and cultivate positive change.
2. Explore And Define Family Roles
In some cases, family members may be confused or unsure of their roles in the group. Family therapy can be used to identify unhealthy roles, as well as define roles and boundaries for each family member. If one family member has been struggling with illness, for example, family therapy can be used to help the other family members understand their role in supporting and caring for them. In some cases, defining roles means doing more; in other cases, it can free family members from the burden of guilt or feeling like it’s up to them to make everything better.
3. Identify Solutions
Family therapy is also a great way to identify each family member’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, when tensions are high, a child may retreat to their room and refuse to complete chores or communicate with their parents. This may spur parents to lash out in anger or dole out severe punishments. In family therapy, this tendency to retreat can be addressed, and the family can develop a better strategy for reducing tension and expressing themselves when they start to escalate. Over the course of several sessions, understanding these strengths and weaknesses can help in identifying long-term family problem solutions.
Every family faces challenges, but there are times when those challenges and the tension that comes with them can create negative patterns within the family. When those negative patterns progress, they can spiral, leaving families without the ability to see a resolution. Choosing to seek help when things get tough is a brave decision. Each family is different, which means there can be a lot of different reasons for seeking therapy, but family therapy is often beneficial to families who are experiencing:
Even the friendliest of divorces can bring emotional or psychological problems for adults and children alike. Family therapy can help family members express their feelings and emotions in a constructive environment. It also allows them to figure out a positive way to move forward.
Families who have experienced the death of a loved one — especially if it was sudden or traumatic — often benefit from working through their grief in a structured counseling setting. Although grief is an individual emotion, when family members are each experiencing grief over the same loved one, it can be beneficial to share their thoughts and feelings in a safe space. Often, families find that giving a voice to their grief allows them to process their emotions and find comfort in those closest to them.
3. Health Issues
Families often benefit from counseling when one of the family members is dealing with serious health issues, including terminal illness or a mental health diagnosis, such as depression. Group therapy is designed to help family members process their emotions, as well as define their roles and expectations for providing care and support to their loved one.
4. Cross-Generational Families
Families that have multiple generations living under one roof benefit from guided therapy to better understand the cross-generational issues and conflicts that arise from living together. Family therapy can help to establish expectations and boundaries that ease family tensions and improve the ability to live harmoniously together.
5. Blended Families
Bringing two families together can be challenging. Children may be used to only their parents’ style of parenting, and there will be an adjustment period as everyone settles into the new family routine. There are many stressors and conflicts that can arise between stepparents and stepsiblings as they adapt to this new family structure. Family counseling services can help each family member ease into this transition before it begins. It can also empower blended families to identify solutions as parents and children adapt to their new normal.
6. Parenting Problems
Having children and understanding how to parent are two different things. The truth is, parenting does not come naturally to most. Your family counseling sessions can address any issues parents may be encountering within their families. Counselors can equip parents with the guidance and support they need to provide a stable, loving and healthy childhood experience for their kids. Treatment will be specific to your family’s situation.
Benefits Of Family Therapy
Besides providing a safe, structured space for families to work through conflict, family counseling can also provide:
1. Relaxing Atmosphere
A family counselor or therapist serves as an impartial third party who is there to listen to families and help sort out their concerns and conflicts in a way that helps them move forward. The ultimate goal of each family session is to provide a comfortable, secure environment for families who often feel a lot of tension and uncertainty at home.
2. Judgement-Free Zone
The purpose of family therapy is to work with an impartial counselor or therapist who is there to help guide discussions in a productive way. He or she is not there to blame or take sides. Instead, they listen and work with each family member to identify challenges and the solutions needed to move forward and resolve conflict. Talking with someone who isn’t within the family circle can often help individuals feel more comfortable expressing their feelings about what’s happening inside of the family unit because they can speak freely and know the person they’re talking to is going to listen, even if they don’t agree. Family therapy allows a highly-trained facilitator to help smooth out the communication issues that often prevent families from resolving complex relational issues on their own.
3. Planning For The Future
Sometimes families realize that there is a problem, but they aren’t sure how it started. When you don’t know the source of a problem, it can be difficult to overcome it. Family therapy can help guide families through their family history to identify the root of the problem and then form an effective plan for moving forward.
Cost Of Family Therapy
One of the questions we’re often asked is, “how much does family therapy cost?” Our hourly rates vary among providers. Be aware that this rate is by the hour, not by the person, so whether it’s 2, 3, or 10 family members, the rate is the same. It’s also difficult to identify how many sessions you’ll need, although most people require less than 20. If cost is a concern, we can work with you to find a provider within your budget. Even though we don’t accept insurance, we can provide the necessary paperwork to file for out-of-network reimbursement with your insurance provider.
Besides expecting to pay a fee for therapy sessions, it’s important that families are prepared for the emotional cost associated with family therapy. Although each family and situation are different, you can expect to experience:
1. Emotional Highs And Lows
Family therapy isn’t easy. Each member of your family will be asked to examine their own thoughts, options, emotions and preconceived ideas of what their role is within the family. There will be sessions when you’ll feel angry or sad — and other sessions when you’ll leave feeling happy or encouraged.
2. Altered Expectations
When you learn more about the thoughts and feelings of others around you, it naturally changes the expectations you have of them. After spending time in family therapy, you’ll likely discover that you view your family members differently — starting with a greater understanding of their own thoughts and opinions.
3. Uncomfortable Situations
Family therapy may uncover some uncomfortable truths about each person involved. But over time, participants realize they are growing individually and as a family unit. The changes and growth that can happen through family therapy have wide-reaching impacts in other personal and professional areas of your life.
4. Shifting Family Dynamics
Positive change can take many forms, but among the changes that occur in family therapy participation, you can expect to experience renewal in relationships, fewer arguments and an increased willingness to help and support each other in the day-to-day tasks of life.
Why Stanford Couples Counseling
One of the hardest parts about making the decision to seek out counseling is finding a counselor or therapist you can trust. This is even more important when you’re trusting them with several members of your family — the people you care about the most. You should choose Stanford Couples Counseling because we offer:
1. Experienced Family Therapists
Our team of experienced mental health providers includes several licensed marriage and family therapists that have worked extensively with a variety of issues and topics, many of which tend to surface during the course of family counseling — that experience means we have the tools and experience necessary to help families encountering all sorts of situations.
2. Multiple Locations
Stanford Couples Counseling offers family therapy services in Dallas, TX, as well as Ft. Worth and Plano. Our wide reach means we are better positioned to help families throughout the region.
3. Virtual Office Hours
We’re proud to provide virtual family therapy to the Dallas, TX area. Our providers also offer virtual sessions, meaning you can receive counseling services in the privacy of your own home or office. You and your family members can be in multiple locations across multiple devices, and you’ll all still be on the same screen. You don’t have to try and coordinate an appointment for everyone to meet in the same location or spend valuable time traveling to and from one of our locations.
Contact Our Family Counseling Experts In Dallas
Family therapy isn’t meant to solve every single problem your family faces — it’s designed to help your family work through conflict in a safe, secure environment with the help of a professional and unbiased third party. It may take some time to see results, but over time, your family will likely notice less tension, quicker resolutions and a more cohesive family unit. That’s what family therapy is all about.
At Stanford Couples Counseling, our goal is to work with families, not just for them. We help your family identify your goals — and our ultimate goal is to help you meet them. Every family has different challenges and requires different solutions to overcome those challenges — so we provide a holistic and personalized approach to every client, rather than stick to a set formula. Looking for family therapy experts in the DFW Metroplex? Let Stanford Couples Counseling help. Schedule an appointment today!