Focusing in on Family Counselling

Family counselling is a specific field of psychotherapy that is intended to promote better communication and foster more effective inter-personal relationships within the confines of the family setting.

While each member of a family is indeed a separate individual there is a need for the family unit to function as a cohesive unit.

When Family Counselling can Help

With families the need for counselling may have been triggered by a major life incident such as divorce, marital separation, a family death or a cross-country move. These are some of the most stressful experiences in life. There are also times when this counselling is needed due to the specific actions of one member. Such instances might include a teenager suffering from substance abuse issues. Mental illness, prolonged hospitalisation or a chronic illness could also create situations within the home environment that demand family therapy.


There are times when all the family members are not participating in the counselling sessions. Usually this is due to an individual who is in denial about the problem and refuses to attend the group meetings. In some situations a counsellor may offer individual sessions as well as family appointments if they feel this is going to be more beneficial approach.

A family counsellor needs to watch the family dynamics and actually witness the interactions between the individuals. This allows the counsellor to observe both positive and negative behaviours, and it also gives them the chance to discover how disagreements are handled within the family. Actions and reactions of each family member will be carefully assessed and discussed so each individual has a chance to find out how their personal responses affect others.

Establishing Communication

Building better communication skills; establishing open dialogue and finding positive behaviour patterns are some of the fundamental elements that can be accomplished with the assistance of an experienced counsellor.

Setting the Stage and Establishing Rules

Family therapy provides all family members with a safe and non-judgemental setting where they are encouraged to share their true feelings. The therapist will guide the discussions when necessary and help family members stay focused on the issues at hand.

Each individual will have time to express their emotions, questions, problems or worries. No one parent or child will be allowed to take charge of the discussion, and open communication is facilitated by the counsellor.

If the therapist feels as though one or two individuals are going to require personal counselling sessions or medication then that help will be suggested, and provided. The personal sessions will take place at a separate time, and these conversations will be confidential. It is important to maintain a non-biased approach which is why the individual sessions are conducted by a different therapist.


Family counselling enjoys a high level of success. Clients are able to resolve problems within their family unit; create warmer familial bonds; lower stress and anxiety and find healthy solutions for their conflicts and problems.

This is not to imply that each session will be smooth sailing. There are usually tears and hurt feelings that will accompany many of the sessions. However with better communication, positive role models and the help of an experienced counsellor the road ahead will be brighter and happier.

Behaviour modification is only one of the techniques that a counsellor may choose to help address the issues that the family is facing. There are a variety of psychosocial models that can be utilised, and more than one option may be required before a positive difference is noted.

Most family counsellors have discovered that it takes six months to a year to really make significant progress. This means that you should make a serious commitment to family counselling if you want to resolve those problems at home.

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