Tips for Successful Family Counseling
We love our families, even when we don’t like them very much. And even though the ties of growing up with one another and being there for the most important moments in life certainly can form a seemingly unshakeable bond, these relationships can still be vulnerable to everyday stresses, personality conflicts, and the wear and tear of long term misunderstandings.
Resentments build up and affect every interaction. Unresolved arguments breed discomfort and bitterness. Family relations can be a huge source of stress and conflict in our lives. But fortunately, family therapy can help you address and resolve those tensions in a productive and healthy way.
We’ve pulled together a list of tips from our therapists to get the most out of your family therapy sessions.
Find the Right Therapist
The biggest step is getting everyone to agree to attend family therapy willingly. Once that hurdle has been jumped, the next most important step will be to find the right therapist for your family and situation. Therapists are people, just like the rest of us, and they have different personalities, approaches, training, and specialties. If your family is very sensitive and private, you may need a therapist who is very tactful. If your family is more rambunctious, you may need a more assertive therapist – or a very calming one!
You’ll know you’ve found the right therapist when you feel comfortable opening up and answering their questions, and when areas of conflict are being dealt with in productive and healthy ways. You may not always feel amazing after family counseling (after all, it’s hard emotional work!) but you should always feel safe.
Sit down with your family member (or members) before your family therapy sessions and discuss the likelihood that you may have to try a few therapists to find the right fit for you. If you set expectations upfront, you’re all less likely to get discouraged when the first few don’t quite work out.
And remember – no matter how much you love a therapist, it is important that everyone involved in therapy is comfortable with the dynamics. Otherwise, you risk setting back your progress or making your family situation worse. The same is true in reverse – you should insist that your family members respect your level of comfort as well.
Prepare Ahead of Time
Once you have selected a therapist, you may want to do some prep work to help you get the most out of your sessions. A therapy session is typically only 50 minutes long every other week or so. That’s not a lot of time to work through a lifetime of issues! Especially if you are attending therapy with multiple family members, it’s important to have some clear goals and open lines of communication.
Before each session, it may be helpful to have every family member write down their questions or any issues they would like to address so that everyone has a chance to feel heard. You may not always get to every issue, but having that list ready to refer to can help keep you on track and serve as a reminder of why you’re here in the first place.
Try to Remain Calm, Respectful, and Honest
There can be a lot of hurt and anger when it comes to our family issues. But it’s important that you try to be as honest as possible while remaining calm and respectful. It’s normal for emotions to get a little raw as you discuss the past, but try to take deep breaths and use “I” statements to avoid being accusatory.
No matter how much you feel you’ve been wronged, remember that it’s impossible for anyone to feel safe and open to vulnerability when they feel attacked or insulted. Try not to name call, raise your voice, or stonewall in response to their emotions or feedback. Many of these reactions are instinctual, but a good therapist will be able to help guide you through any rough moments and try to establish lines of communication between you and your family member(s).
If you are considering family therapy, or if you have questions about family counseling in Little Rock, contact Chenal Family Therapy. We’re happy to set up an appointment for you to meet with one of our talented therapists and get to know them.