Counseling Corner: Is family counseling worth considering?

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We all face problems and usually tend to think that the burden of those problems is just ours. Actually, many times there may be real benefit in dealing with such problems by involving those with whom we’re the closest — our families.

Family counseling is a specialized field for professional counselors that was developed in the 1950s. Many decades of experience have shown that involving family members often leads to greater understanding, increased support and the discovery of more effective ways to treat the causes of a problem.

While professional counselors specializing in family counseling may employ a number of different approaches, they tend to have some common characteristics. These include focusing on the family as a client rather than just seeing an individual as the one with the problem. They look at how a family operates and how it reacts to influences from within and without. They see dealing with the family as a whole as an effective way to help overcome problems and work through issues even though they may be affecting only one or two family members.

While family counseling is not the answer for every problem, it has been very effective in dealing with several long-term, serious issues. A family member suffering from addiction, an eating disorder or severe depression, for example, are cases where family counseling often yields positive results. Other issues, such as gender identity, may also be understood better if all family members are aware and supportive.

Professional counselors in the field of family counseling work in a variety of ways depending on their educational background and the situation being presented. It can be important to discuss your counselor’s approach and methods before beginning the process of treatment.

You also want to approach such counseling with the right understanding. Seeking to change someone else is usually not productive, but looking for ways you can change yourself in regard to family matters usually is.

Family counseling is usually as effective as individual counseling when the family is willing to seek help as a group. Your local mental health center, an online search, or the American Counseling Association website at www.counseling.org (click the “Find A Counselor” tab at the top) can help locate professional family counselors in your area who can help break down barriers in communication and intimacy and assist you in finding more productive ways to operate as a family.

Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Send comments and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit www.counseling.org.

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