The Benefits of Family Counseling, by Joshua Beavers, M.A., LPC, BCN
Family support has a significant impact on mental health and in today’s uncertain time is needed more than ever. Each individual family member plays an essential role in helping to create an environment where respect, empathy, and good communication are the norm. Rules, boundaries, and role expectations are often necessary to help guide family members through daily interactions. Problems arise when rules are broken, boundaries are crossed, and role expectations are unmet. Many families arrive at counseling sessions feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Fixing the problems can be challenging, but a licensed mental health professional can help the family navigate the concerns. In this article I will discuss the benefits of family counseling.
One of the benefits of family counseling is having a safe place to talk openly about concerns. In session, each family member is encouraged to share his/her perspective. What are the concerns? How long have these existed? How do the concerns affect each family member? Counselors ask questions like these to understand the problems. The session feels like a “safe place” when all members are allowed to speak openly without fear of judgment or retribution. The ability to communicate respectfully is a hallmark sign of a healthy family, and guided practice with a counselor can help make this a reality.
A second benefit of family counseling is having a safe place to practice appropriate behaviors. A few of the behaviors practiced in session include active listening, collaborative problem solving, and emotion coaching. Active listening requires full concentration from each member. Family members take turns speaking, and each member focuses intently on both the content and emotions of the speaker’s message. The members actively engage by asking questions and summarizing the speaker’s points to demonstrate their understanding of the concerns. Collaborative problem solving is a proactive (instead of reactive) communication technique used to help parents and children reduce the likelihood of conflict. The goal of this technique is to help parents identify skills (e.g., communication, social, coping) their children may be lacking and then work together to develop solutions to the problems. Emotion coaching is based on the research of Dr. John Gottman, and this technique helps parents communicate with their children about different emotions. Parents who use this technique increase the awareness of their own emotional reactions, and this helps them value their children’s emotional experiences. Dr. Gottman’s research suggests children who receive emotion coaching have an increased ability to empathize with others, regulate their own emotions, and self-soothe better than children who do not receive the coaching. The counselor teaches the family how to implement these behaviors effectively. The family is encouraged to then utilize these skills in session, and the counselor provides feedback to help the family improve their performance. Skills learned in session often translate to the home.
A third benefit of family counseling is having a safe place to brainstorm solutions. Progress may not come after a few sessions of just “talking things out.” Families may have to change structure/routines, implement new family rules, or use different discipline techniques with children. The counselor helps the family evaluate all possible factors (e.g., physical, educational, occupational, social, psychological) impacting the family system. In some instances, counselors may recommend individual counseling sessions for family members who are struggling to cope with personal issues.
Many clients report feeling relief after working with a family counselor. Surprisingly, many clients report improvements after only a few sessions. If you’re interested in scheduling a family counseling session, please contact RenuYou Neurofeedback Brain Fitness Center today! RenuYou has three licensed mental health professionals on staff who are excited to join your efforts to help your family flourish!