Leo Tolstoy wrote in his famous work of literature Anna Karenina that “happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Those who have encountered adversity within their own family units could hardly disagree. And while most families will struggle with various issues and upsets from generation to generation, it's important to know when it may be time to seek professional counseling.
A family therapist is licensed and trained to help families of all walks of life examine and discuss their difficulties in a safe and unbiased environment. Whether it's an outside factor such as the death of a loved one, or internal issues surrounding divorce, intervention, ongoing disagreements, or specific concerns regarding a particular family member, family counseling can help your family regain balance and peace, as well as apply real-life solutions to everyday problems.
To begin, what are the signs that it may be time to see a family therapist?
Is It time to see a family therapist?
1. The issue does not improve, but only grows worse with time.
Some events occur within a family that simply cannot be resolved without a neutral third party. Whether it's a point of contention between two or more members or a matter of grief, separation, or illness, you may find that time isn't healing all wounds but in fact worsening them.
2. Communication has weakened or stopped altogether.
Communication is vital in maintaining a family's health and happiness. When family members cease to communicate in an adequate manner, either going silent or becoming increasingly hostile, it may be time to allow a family therapist to act as mediator, and promote healthy discourse once again.
3. Issues within a family are affecting other areas of life.
What happens behind closed doors seldom stays there, and those who are struggling with family matters often bring them to work, school, and various outside obligations. This may be natural enough, but hardly the stuff of a well-balanced and productive life. Whether it's a child's performance in school or your own inability to focus on the job, it's important to understand the far-reaching effects of one's home life, and how to strike a balance.
4. Your home has begun to feel unsafe.
In extreme cases, a family conflict or singular member may be endangering the safety of others. Violent and destructive tendencies, regardless of what's causing them, should be addressed right away with utmost seriousness. Many times substance abuse and unresolved trauma can lead to such behavior, while there may be other underlying factors that need addressing. A family therapist can not only help address such issues and provide workable solutions, but refer your family to other trusted professional services for additional assistance.
Benefits of seeing a family therapist
Many resist seeing a family therapist out of shame or embarrassment, but rest assured no matter is off-limits to a trained counselor. And the benefits far outweigh any potential sources of hesitation. Here are some of the widely-reported benefits of seeing a family therapist:
- Improvement in communication
- Strengthening of trust and personal bonds
- Ability to resolve conflict in a healthy way
- Restored physical and mental well-being
Additionally, family therapy can be undertaken at any time, even during periods of relative peace. For example, premarital counseling can help couples lay the foundation for a healthy and sustainable relationship, which future children will no doubt benefit from as well. Too often people seek help only when an issue has overwhelmed all other aspects of their life, and seeking therapy early will strengthen and fortify your familial bonds, as well as your overall quality of life.
Transitional periods can be particularly difficult for families, especially those with young children. Divorce, pending loss, and relocation can permanently affect some members, and should be discussed and worked through as soon as possible.
Remember, family counseling isn't just for families in periods of crisis, but for families of all situations and outlooks. Even your best moments can be reinforced with the guidance of a therapist, who can help you and your family maintain those healthy, happy structures that can withstand any future obstacle.
Whether you seek counseling services in person or online, a family therapist will be able to help your family regain the trust and enthusiasm so often lacking during times of duress. By treating each member with respect and lack of judgement, you and your family can address the matter at hand and collectively work towards a positive, long-lasting solution. No issue is too great to be transformed into a positive turning point, and your family therapist will be there every step of the way.