In the ideal situation, the people in our families provide us with support and strength, and these are the individuals we feel the closest to and most comfortable with. It is from our families that we learn how to communicate and cope, get our outlook on life and cultivate the expectations we have of other people. The family is where we first learn how to give and receive love.
While families deal with problems every now and then, sometimes the problems are more severe. Not all families meet ideal expectations, and many families live with stress, anger and feelings of detachment from one another. Sometimes behavioral and mental health issues, as well as stressful events, cause problems in families.
Family therapy and counseling can help the members of a family improve their communication and find a resolution to their conflicts. Therapy may include all family members—or those who are able or willing to participate—and it is used to work with the family to teach the skills needed during stressful times.
Reasons for Family Therapy
Conflicts in families can result from a variety of physical, emotional and mental causes. Family therapy may help when there are issues, such as grief, marital problems like divorce or separation, blended families, behavior problems with adolescents, depression and more. The following are more examples where family counseling is critical.
- The effects of an illness. When a person has a chronic illness, it can affect his life and the members of the family in many ways. A parent who is tired and in pain may be unable to keep his job. The result may be the stress or anxiety of financial difficulties. In addition, the parent with the illness may erupt in anger or have depression, because he is trying to cope with the illness. On top of that, the parent may have to take medications that can have displeasing side effects that cause him to be irritated, not as alert and more.
- Eating disorders (especially prevalent in adolescents). There are so many misconceptions about eating disorders that families become divided. Sometimes, people put the blame on the parents or other members of the family for the individual’s eating disorder. Eating disorders are complex, and there are several contributing factors that can trigger them. According to research, individuals with eating disorders come from vastly differing backgrounds and from all types of parenting styles. Family members are often on “high alert” because of their loved one’s disorder, and the individual with the illness can find it a very stressful and frightening experience. Therapy is vital for each member of the family to communicate and discuss their emotions in the family unit. Therapy may help to identify the relationships that help to enable the behaviors of the illness.
- Problems between siblings. All siblings have disagreements and argue sometimes, but when the rivalry is intense and goes on for a long period of time, there may be a need for the intervention of family therapy. When siblings fight for more than a month or an immense jealousy exists, it affects the whole family. The reasons for sibling problems include older children that have more household chores than younger ones, resulting in resentment. It may be between a brother and sister, where one feels that the other is being treated differently or better by the parents.
- Major change to occur. In anticipation of a major change in family members’ lives, family therapy can help to teach the individuals how to cope with the stress. For instance, if a couple is getting married and have children from their previous marriages, they may want to have all of the members of the family seek therapy to learn how to live together, get along and alleviate some of the stressors of being a blended family.
- Alcohol and drug addictions. The effects of substance abuse on families is devastating, with more than seven million children in the U.S.—more than 10 percent—living with a parent who has alcohol problems, according to a 2012 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report. This places the children and family members at risk for co-occurring mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and addiction. When a parent is addicted to alcohol or drugs, statistics show that he is more apt to abuse or neglect his spouse or children (or both). Young children may suffer from a weak attachment bond with the addicted parent. In addition, a person with an addiction may find himself with financial problems and even imprisonment. The stress caused by the addiction can affect children in that they may do poorly in school because of anxiety and are the “surrogate” parents to younger children to “replace” the parent with the addiction. This can lead to unhealthy relationships in the future.
Studies show that family therapy is important for both adults and adolescents who are dealing with substance abuse, eating disorders and emotional and behavioral issues. It has been found that when the entire family is able to grow, each member is better off.
Why is Family Therapy Beneficial?
In family therapy, the members can work together to resolve a specific issue. It can help the family get ready for a life-changing event, such as divorce or remarriage. In addition, the role that a family plays in each member’s life is discussed.
Family therapy helps the members learn their strengths and weaknesses, as well as understand how their particular family plays a vital part in each individual’s life. Therapists work with families to help them set goals and strategize ways to solve problems and overcome challenges, improve communication skills among members and, ultimately, make the family stronger.
The family therapists and counselors at Thriveworks in Bristol, VA have credentials and are professionally licensed. They work with families to help settle their differences, learn how to support one another and move forward toward a healthy and happy future. Call Thriveworks Bristol at (423) 822-5099 to make an appointment today.