Family life can be a source of comfort, love and security. Being part of a stable and happy family can foster a fulfilling sense of belonging in adults, adolescents and children. The Australian Bureau of Statistic’s 2010 survey of overall life satisfaction showed that people who had regular contact with family members reported the greatest level of life satisfaction (78%) compared to those who had little to no recent contact (33%). Research shows that healthy family relationships can improve our general outlook on life, sense of wellbeing and physiological resilience.
Yet family life can also be challenging. A family is a group of individuals with different personalities, opinions and attitudes, and conflicts often arise. Family interactions can cause pain and misunderstanding if family members are struggling to communicate and support each other effectively. Families frequently find themselves in entrenched patterns of destructive behaviour or negative interaction, and may have difficulty identifying how to make changes – or even lose faith that the potential for positive change exists.
Families can change
Life Supports is here to offer hope when it feels like your family is falling apart under pressure. Life Supports family counselling is designed to help your family members build a sense of interpersonal trust, openness and mutual respect. Family counselling is a complex area of therapy, yet research evidence shows that family counselling, in all its variations, is one of the most effective forms of therapeutic intervention available today.
Traditionally, a family usually consisted of parents and children. These days, a family can take many forms, including:
- Blended family
- Extended family
- Families tied by blood, marriage and defacto relationships
- Foster and adoptive families
- Same-sex parented family
- Separated parent family
- Single parent family
- Step family
At Life Supports we can support your family unit – whatever its configuration may be – with professionally tailored, solution-focused counselling services.
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Common family issues
Families may be adversely affected by many different major life transitions and events. These are some of the most prevalent reasons our clients seek family counselling:
- Blended and step family issues
- Cultural differences
- Death of a family member
- Emotional and behavioural issues: children and adolescents
- Family member substance misuse
- Family disputes and conflict
- Family violence
- Financial stress
- Illness and disability within the family
- Parenting concerns
- Separation and divorce
- Trauma resolution
Bear in mind that these are simply some of the most common presentations for family counselling. If your family is struggling to cope with an issue not listed above, we can still help you. The reasons people attend family counselling are as varied as the types of families we support, and every Life Supports family counsellor has training that enables them to address a multitude of family-related concerns. No matter the issue affecting your family, we can help you to work through it and move forward.
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Family counselling goals
The family counselling process usually involves two or more family members working with a Life Supports specialist to better understand each other’s viewpoint and concerns. Family counselling acknowledges that each person contributes to the family group from their own set of values and perspectives, using their unique personality and interactional style. As such, there are always multiple experiences of reality at play within the family system. The goal of family counselling is to reconcile all those versions of events and relationships in a way that creates trustful co-operation, whilst minimising conflict.
Life Supports counsellors and psychologists can help family members to:
- Genuinely hear each other
- Gain meaningful insight into each other’s perspectives
- Effectively and respectfully negotiate relationship needs
- Learn to take responsibility for their own actions and reactions within the family context
Identifying ways to communicate more effectively and deal with conflict proactively are at the core of family counselling. These interpersonal tools are essential to creating and maintaining a healthy, harmonious family unit.
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Types of family counselling
Life Supports family counselling is a multi-component service, that often utilises a combination of evidence-based techniques. Family counselling enables family members to safely express themselves to each other, identify and explore issues, and agree upon achievable goals together. Below are three of the most effective techniques used in contemporary family counselling:
Cognitive Behavioural Family Therapy (CBFT) helps families to identify and examine beliefs, behaviours and interactions that are both positive and maladaptive. CBFT aims to reinforce desired family behaviours whilst reducing unhealthy patterns of behaviour and social exchange.
Experiential Family Therapy (ECT) examines the underlying discord in family conflict. By exploring each family member’s experience of themselves, other members, and the family as a unit, ECT can yield important insights about dysfunction within the family system. By communicating honestly and creating new interpersonal boundaries together, families can establish deeper levels of cooperation and intimacy.
Strategic Family Therapy (SFT) looks at healthy and harmful patterns of interaction between family members. The aim of SFT is to identify negative cycles of family conflict, and replace habitual ways of relating with new behavioural responses to family problems. By disrupting the loop of dysfunctional conflict, lasting positive change within the family dynamics can occur.
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What happens in a family counselling session?
It is common for one or two family members to initiate the counselling process, with other family members joining in if and when they are ready. We also provide individual family counselling if you need a nonjudgmental, confidential space to explore and address your own family issues.
Family counselling is suitable for both small and larger family groups– there are no prerequisites that the entire family needs to be present. In fact, family counselling can be incredibly effective even if certain family members choose not to participate.
Your Life Supports family counsellor or psychologist will collaborate with your family to build on relational strengths and encourage change and interpersonal growth opportunities.
Life Supports counselling helps families to:
- Clearly identify issues affecting each family member
- Foster inclusiveness and consideration of every family member’s needs
- Develop clear family goals (e.g. reducing the frequency of conflict)
- Practice safe, effective ways to address family challenges and grievances
- Cease engaging in blaming behaviour, by taking responsibility for the family’s welfare as a group
- Use effective, respectful communication when discussing distressing or challenging issues
- Break the cycle of family conflict by encouraging new ways of relating
- Recognise setbacks as opportunities for growth and learning
- Focus on and celebrate the family’s unique strengths
- Review progress and maintain improvements
Our team of family counsellors and psychologists
Life Supports family counsellors and psychologists will collaborate with your family to facilitate greater harmony and more positive relationships. All of our family counsellors are experienced at working with a wide range of family configurations and issues, using a targeted, evidence-based blend of counselling techniques to achieve the positive results each individual family needs. Contact one of our friendly intake consultants to discuss your next steps.
Identifying ways to communicate more effectively and deal with conflict proactively is paramount to achieving a happy, cohesive family unit.
Family Counselling FAQs
What is the goal of family counselling?
The goal of family counselling is to improve the quality of relationships within a family and to address – and help overcome – any deep-seated issues that are causing conflict or fractures. Often this involves enabling different members of a family unit to understand one another better, and acknowledge their various perspectives.
How to get court-ordered family counselling?
A Court may order a family to attend family counselling during the process of the legal dissolution of a marriage or ahead of the final decision in a custody dispute. This therapy may need to be completed before the final decision is made, and its outcome can influence that decision – for this reason, family counselling is not always confidential when mandated by the courts.
What are the most common problems in a family?
There are as many different issues as there are types of family, and a professional family counsellor can tackle just about any issue that comes their way, but common themes that come up in a lot of family counselling sessions include:
- Problems with blended or step-families, especially in new marriages
- Cultural or religious differences
- Death and grief
- Emotional and behavioural problems, especially among children and teenagers
- Substance abuse
- Violence and abuse
- Financial issues
- Illness or disability
- Separations and divorces.
What is the difference between family therapy and individual therapy?
Individual therapy focuses solely on the single client, their internal landscape, issues and mental health problems. It’s extremely inward-focused and personal. Family counselling can be personal too, but it’s more about developing more positive relationships and learning to navigate closeness with people where there may be pre-existing conflicts or tensions. Practically, family counselling involves working together with those family members to solve issues, and having open and honest conversations with them.
What can I expect from family counselling?
Family counselling involves identifying problems that are impacting each family member, and building strategies for each family member to help the others on those issues. It works to create a safe, mediated space where grievances can be aired and talked through in a constructive, non-judgmental, and non-confrontational manner. Often, it will involve setting achievable goals, such as fewer arguments or more time spent together. It also can be a great way to learn to communicate better with family members.