Many clients come into counseling with complaints about relationships, and much of the time it involves family members.
I like to view clients and the problems that they face within the context of their family, because people are best understand when you view them in relation to the people that are closest and most important to them. Family Systems Theory suggests that individuals can’t be understood in isolation, but rather as a part of their larger, more complex, emotional unit- their family. We all know that we are deeply impacted by our own family members, for better or for worse, and likewise we impact our family members. When one person in a family struggles, the whole family suffers in some way; and when one person makes steps toward health and healing, the whole family feels that as well.
When one person within a family changes, the other members can’t help but respond with a shift or change as well. That’s why family counseling, as opposed to individual counseling, can be so relevant and helpful as the whole family shifts. This is especially true when a child or adolescent is experiencing symptoms. Parents often bring their child in for counseling, and I will share with them the need to view the symptoms in light of the family system and how each family member interacts with the presenting issue or problem.
In my work with families we may explore:
- family roles- who does what within the family
- family rules- those spoken and unspoken guidelines
- subsystems within the family- parents, siblings
- power and influence
- the ways in which the family copes with stressors
The complex interactions and intensely emotional nature of our families provide so much information and opportunities for learning and intervention. And it’s a beautiful thing to see relationships improve and family members move toward one another in understanding and love.