For a long time, visiting a therapist or counsellor carried with it a certain stigma in some circles, often thought of as something to hide. Thankfully, the societal trends are changing, and more and more people feel comfortable going to a therapist and seeking solutions for coping with a wide range of the issues with which life presents us. It’s not just individual counselling that can help us deal with whatever life throws at you, however. Family counselling can prove to have some amazing results as well.
Any family going through a crisis can find family counselling to be beneficial, as counselling can help the members express themselves freely, learning how to improve their communication and build stronger bonds. There are many events in which families should seek counselling, and many benefits to doing just that, so let’s have a closer look.
When Family Counselling is Helpful
Counselling is helpful any time a family is in a state of crisis. Now, a crisis can mean quite a few different things to different people. Often a family can become dysfunctional. What this means is that the family members simply become accustomed to their circumstances and become oblivious certain things (depression, anxiety, patterns of inappropriate behaviour, etc.) without addressing the issues they might be facing.
While this might sound perfectly acceptable to some, unresolved issues have a way of eating away at us and can cause further problems down the line. One of the most common crises that most parents face, but don’t usually deal with, is when their child goes off to college or university. This causes a major shift in family dynamics, even if other children are still living at home.
This situation is very difficult for the siblings that remain at home as well. This can cause a strain on all family relationships and can affect the mental health of every family member. Any change in family dynamics can cause problems, whether that change is good or bad.
- Birth or adoption of a new child
- Starting a new family business
- Having to take care of elderly parents
- Going through a divorce
- Dealing with the death of a loved one
All these events can trigger a family crisis that cannot be resolved without open communication.
Recognizing whether you and your family members need counselling can be difficult, but whenever something feels off and cannot be solved with a conversation, family counselling is strongly advised.
Common Responses to a Family Crisis
Every individual has their own way of dealing with a crisis, and some handle it better than others. But even if you have a functionally dysfunctional family, there are some telltale signs that might show you that counselling is needed.
Adults and children often have different ways of showing they’re struggling, and paying attention to the signs and responding to them is the best way of dealing with the situation at hand. Adults often try to escape an unhappy family life by working extra hours on purpose, constantly going out after work, investing more and more time in their hobbies which take them away from home. Of course, some of the more obvious signs include cheating or substance abuse.
Teens tend to deal with problems by using video games as an escape, spending inordinate amounts of time on their phones and social media platforms, sleeping too much, turning to drugs and alcohol, etc.
It’s the most difficult to discern whether young children are facing any issues, however, so taking note of the general behaviour of the child is advised. If they’re more withdrawn than usual, avoid communicating with family members, and don’t like playing with other children, there might be a cause for worry.
On the other hand, the child might express their frustration through frequent tantrums and bad behaviour. Seek counselling if your child starts acting differently without a specific cause such as physical illness.
Reactive Versus Proactive Counselling
Most people turn to family counselling once they’ve experienced a certain shock or trauma. The problem with this approach is that the family members who are experiencing a crisis are often not receptive to counselling. They’re often too shaken up and are in a state of shock. While not always possible, the best option is taking a proactive approach and visiting a family counsellor before things escalate and get out of hand.
If there are problems in communication between family members, if someone is acting up or displaying atypical behaviour, family counselling is often the best option that helps direct the whole family in the right way.
How Family Counselling Can Help
Family counselling has proven time and time again to be beneficial to the families in an emotional crisis. While counselling doesn’t come with a 100% guarantee, a counsellor guides the family members and helps them learn how to deal with their problems using proven methods and leveraging their training and experience.
Easier Communication Between the Family Members
Families in an emotional crisis often cannot communicate clearly between themselves, most commonly because they don’t know where to start. The problems have often been there for a while, and it can be difficult addressing them, or even identifying them. Each member learns how to deal with the problem in their own way, and this can leave everyone feeling isolated and without a clear picture of what should be done and what their role inside the family is.
Parent-child communication is ineffective, the parents are not respected, and the child is not being listened to. This causes a great strain on the relationships inside the family, and no one is able to look at things from the other’s perspective.
This is where a counsellor comes in, as they can provide a safe space for everyone to open up. They help families learn proper communication and help them resolve conflicts in a healthy, positive way.
Strengthened Relationship Between the Members
One of the most important benefits of family counselling is strengthening family bonds. While all families experience conflicts on occasion, both big and small, if conflict is a constant in a family, it’s easy to reach the point of no return and permanently damage the relationship between family members. This can have more serious consequences when children are concerned. Some sibling rivalry is always expected in families with more than one child, and this can be beneficial to the development of children if they learn healthy conflict resolution.
However, if it goes beyond rivalry and develops into sibling bullying, the consequences can go beyond childhood and extend into adulthood. It’s important to address the issues that are detrimental to the relationships between the family members as soon as they’re noticed.
Family counselling encourages open communication, and the counsellors can guide the members and teach them how to work as a team. As opposed to individual counselling, collaborative sessions allow each family member to contribute to the solution of the problem, and nothing establishes a strong relationship quite like effective teamwork.
Poor family dynamics and bad relations can have lasting consequences for young children. They end up feeling badly about themselves, losing confidence and morale. When parents don’t get along, or when there are constant tensions and fighting within the household, children start blaming themselves for the troubles or regret their inability to do something to fix the situation. In the end, they may very well become adults with low self-esteem, finding it difficult connecting with others and entering healthy relationships themselves.
This is often seen among adults as well since feelings of powerlessness and despair due to the constant conflict lead to a loss of confidence. During family counselling sessions, all members of the family discover the sources of the struggle and work together to resolve the problems. They realize that it’s usually not just one person causing the conflicts, and they stop blaming themselves or accept their responsibility if they’d been blaming another member.
When the conflicts are resolved during family counselling, this can create a sense of pride in each individual member. Overcoming the struggles together and starting to see the silver lining boosts both confidence and morale since dealing with these kinds of issues takes great strength and effort.
Developed Coping Skills
No matter the type of family we grow up in, we all learn from our surroundings as we grow, and the children who grow up in dysfunctional families tend to become dysfunctional themselves.
They learn how others should treat them, what’s okay and what’s not, how they should behave when they’re faced with a problem, and much more. Those who cannot learn how to cope with different challenges and conflicts in their family cannot get the skills to cope with other problems later in life.
Family counselling helps to learn important coping skills that are healthy and can have an effect on other relationships later in life. They learn how to be better parents, neighbours, friends, lovers, etc.
Ottawa’s Leaders in Family Counselling
Family counselling isn’t just about solving a single problem and moving on. It’s about learning how to better communicate with those around you, how to understand others and have them understand you. It’s a process that primarily helps the family itself deal with various types of issues, but this process translates into other areas of life as well.
To find out more and schedule a session, contact us today. Capital Choice Counseling has a network of experienced and well-regarded family therapists and counsellors throughout Ottawa and Eastern Ontario.