What to Expect When You Begin Family Counseling at MyCounselor.Online

Welcome! If you’re reading this, you might be asking What is family counseling? I have learned that family counseling can be intimidating because often the client and the family do not know what to expect, and due to more people in the room, there is heightened anxiety when deciding whether or not they want to do family counseling. Well, friends, I want to answer questions you might have to help you decide and ease some of those anxieties!     

About the Author

We often get the call of What is family counseling? Parents, grandparents, step parents, etc. often ask what issues can be addressed, who should attend, and what does counseling even look like. When teenagers are asking the questions, it’s often about confidentiality and whether or not they HAVE to talk to me.  All of these things will be addressed in this article and more.   

But first, can we start by acknowledging that raising our kids can be rough?! Every stage of their growing up, and even them being adults, brings a whole new set of challenges. IT TAKES A VILLAGE, friends! And here at MyCounselor.Online, we want to link arms with you and join that village. When we join people’s villages, we want to help you be the parents you wish you were, to help you know how to approach your kids, and help your kids feel like they can talk to you. None of us are Jesus, we will all make mistakes and have struggles in parenting. Let us join your village to help you!   

Family therapy here at MCO may look different than other places, so I want to pull back the curtain and allow you to see a glimpse into what family therapy looks like here, so you can make a better decision whether or not this is what you and your loved ones need.    *A note to the reader: whenever I am talking about your children, it can be interchanged with teenager or adult child.  We work with any child that’s 12 years and up through adulthood.   

How We Understand The Problems That Bring You To Counseling 

Through the years that we have done this work, we have identified a pattern. There is a parent that calls in struggling with a relationship with a child or a child’s behavior and is asking for help (often this looks a lot more complex, but you get the idea). Within families, we then see that there is some kind of disconnection that is maintaining the problem. This often sounds like a mom sharing that she has tried everything and still her son is unreachable to her and his drug use continues. While there may be a teenager who is acting out in some way, there is a block in the teen’s ability or willingness to share with parents what is going on, a block in the parent’s confidence in knowing how to handle the problem, and/or a block in how the parent gives care and the child then receives it. What we have learned is that the troublesome behavior and relationship challenges are addressed by helping the connection between child and parent.   

Isn’t this totally how God parents us? Our relationship with Him matters more than our behaviors, but as He draws us into relationship with Him, our heart changes and then our behaviors follow. He cares so much about us that His love changes us! This is the same with our relationships with our kids, however, there are some kind of blocks that need to be removed. Unfortunately, these blocks are there due to our own mistakes and/or stressors and life traumas (remember, all of us will make mistakes that will put blocks between us and our kids, some blocks just need more help being removed is all). Family therapy is learning to remove these blocks, so that the love of the parent and the child can bring about the changes needed. 1 Peter 4:8 (ESV) Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.   

Problems that are often brought to us are struggles with a suicidal child and self-harm, child shutting down and shutting people out, behavioral issues at school or home, issues around sexuality and boundaries, distress due to divorce or remarriage and step parents/siblings, struggles surrounding foster care and building trust, stress of missionary work on the family and child, recovery from a traumatic event, restabilization after infidelity of a parent, and so much more.   

Who is Invited?

The first session, we will invite all those impacted by the presenting struggle to attend (all those above 12 with parents discretion). Continuing sessions will ideally look like parents attend session with counselor. Subsequent sessions will be the anyone impacted and then focusing on the child that is struggling the most, helping them cope, and their relationship with their parents. This often looks like a combination of sessions that are just individual work with the child, joint sessions with child and parents, and sessions with parents for the child’s benefit. We will work to try to remove any barriers of connection and need everyone on board to help! The therapist will direct this process and make the needed recommendations. Although, what the child shares is confidential, unless issues of risk are involved, the counselor will help the child understand the problem in the larger story of their lives and hopefully then share this with parents.   

What Does Therapy Looks Like?

What the actual work of therapy looks like is helping the family, not just the teenager, understand their story. The therapist will help the child and family tell their story of how the problem began, what role each person plays, and how this continues. Again, this sounds simple, but I’m taking a complex, neurobiological and attachment based process and sharing what it might look like for everyone coming in! The therapist will focus on emotions experienced in the moment between child and parents, defenses or ways in which everyone tries to protect themselves from being hurt, and how we interpret one another’s behavior and view of selves. Often times the problem began much smaller than it is now as a means of protecting oneself or trying to not feel. We need to help everyone be able to come together, feel together, and repair.   

What family therapy is not! 

Family therapy is not the whole family or even one individual (child nor the parent) being blamed for one person’s issues. There is still accountability, but family therapy is working as a family to help the individual who is struggling and remove the blocks that are in the way of them giving/receiving love. We are all accountable for our actions and we must all look at the role we play. This is why family therapy isn’t just working with one troubled youth, but bringing in the family, the family can hurt one another or help each other heal!    Family therapy is also not the therapist telling the family what to do, nor is it the therapist judging the parents. Therapists aren’t there to be the rule keeper nor are they to tell the parent how to parent. But helping the parents decide for themselves what is right or wrong for their families.   

So…Do you need family therapy?

I’d like to speak to the hearts of the parents real quick. If there is any hesitation, worriedness, or shame that you may be experiencing about calling in for help, I’d like you to know that the counselors here all know how hard it is to call in for help. If you’ve read this far, you probably are feeling the tug of wanting or needing to call in. Let’s start with listening to that instinct of yours, and call! Every family will need help from the village, remember. Give us a chance to join yours! You and your counselor will work together to decide if you truly need counseling and what your help will look like.   

Be Brave. Be Curious. Be Kind. 

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