Family counselling - could it help you?

Caroline Cassidy

All relationships have highs and lows and families are no different. But sometimes the cracks that appear can turn into chasms, and that's when family counselling might become an option. If you are worried that your family is on the brink of meltdown, here's what you need to know about the counselling option.

family counselling
family counselling

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Is it for me?
There are numerous situations that can cause a breakdown in family communication, and numerous situations where counselling can help. Divorce and separation are particularly hard on families, but a counsellor can help both children and parents alike to set aside their differences and adjust to the new order of things. Step families may benefit from sessions to help them settle into life with a new family.

Similarly, a bereavement or other traumatic event may cause problems within the family, but talking things through within the setting of a counselling session can help not just individuals but the family as a whole. Where disability or the onset of serious illness is causing family issues, a counsellor can engage each member of the family in order to help them adjust to their changing lives.

Even where things seem to be beyond repair, with warring siblings, parents or in-laws, family counselling may be able to set everyone back on the right track and help them resolve their differences.

What can I expect?
The idea of counselling is to allow all members of the family the chance to be heard. The counsellor encourages each party to describe their feelings on family matters where previously they have felt ignored, isolated or discussions have dissolved into rows. This way, family members are able to properly listen to each other's issues and ultimately learn to accept and respect each individual's feelings.

According to Relate, most families find that a session once every two weeks is enough, but on occasion, the counsellor may ask to see various family members, either alone or together, to work on specific issues.

In cases where family issues are more complex, a GP may be able to refer you to Family Therapy.

Where do I start?
If you are considering family counselling, a good place to start is the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy, which includes a directory to help you find a service near you. Relate also run family counselling sessions, as well as providing excellent resources that may help families to cope with conflict at home.

Some schools can also refer parents to counselling services so it is worth asking your child's teacher. Alternatively, ask your GP whether they can refer you to family counselling or therapy.

Have you tried family counselling? Tell us about your experiences below...