Are one or more of the family members in crisis? Are there major transitional moments that have arrived and seem to be creating upheaval for your family? Is your home—a place where you long for love, understanding and tranquility—filled instead with trouble and tears? Has communication in the family broken down? Have unhealthy, disrespectful or abusive patterns taken root, and seem to dominate all interaction? Do you experience everyone in the family as moving in very different directions – away from the bonds that held you together? Are tensions, fighting and hurt feelings dominating the family’s life together? Do you resolve each day to create a more peaceful home life, only to find that your family is trapped in a repetitive cycle of misunderstanding and pain?
If you have answered yes to some or all of these questions then family counseling might make sense for you.
Who Seeks Family Counseling?
Families who end up seeking and receiving help oftentimes do not initially reach out together as a family. More often than not, one or both parents sense a serious crisis, communication breakdown or a seemingly insurmountable impasse. Worry takes over, and in the end the parent will often realize it is up to them to truly address the circumstances.
Triggers are as vast and varied as imaginable, but the bottom line is often about parents realizing that they no longer know how to address the crisis without some outside intervention. When all paths seem to lead to the same place—fights, distance and alienation—instinct tells them something different needs to happen.
In today’s culture our children are more vulnerable and susceptible to negative outcomes due to social media, media messaging, abundance of illicit substances, the seduction of quick fixes, pressures to perform at certain levels in school and so on. The generational gap has widened.
It is healthy, expected, maybe even desired to have our kids and teens leave the family to some degree—to forge a separate life away from the family. The problems arise when the opportunities for secret lives through technology and access to a nearly infinite world outside the home makes the task of relating to your child much more daunting for parents.
In this respect problems can metasticize much more readily and by the time parents catch up to it, things seem to have taken on a life of their own. Parents often discover that their children have deep and complicated troubles that have flown under their radar, resulting in potentially life-changing effects in their family’s life.
Family counseling took hold in the 1950s here in America and has continued to evolve through the decades. The thoughts and philosophy behind this process have proven effective agents of change and health.
Therapy helps families explore how they relate to each other. In particular, the emphasis is placed on helping the family first understand, and then undo, the negative dynamics in the family.
Beyond that, families who enlist an outside advocate/expert to help them actually end up exploring more subtle issues involving how they cope and deal with different feelings and feeling states. All families tend to tolerate different kinds of feelings in different ways.
How families deal with and cope with different feelings is a complex, subtle, nuanced process that speaks to how families deal with most everything.
How Emotional Patterns Are Forged
To just expand upon this theme a bit here, Darwin died during his seminal work that sought to scientifically validate his hypothesis that certain feelings, 9 different ones, were hardwired into the genetic make-up of human beings.
Darwin was right and was later proved to be by Tomkins, Nathanson and others. In a certain way most any parent intuitively knows this already, because at about 6 weeks a baby smiles. This means the baby is happy. No one could have taught a baby to smile, nor that this smile would be a means to expressing happiness. It quite simply happens naturally. From this example we see how feelings are wired into our being and the expression of them are somehow plugged into our neurology to express different feelings in different ways.
Taking several leaps of faith in this discussion we could see how different families, without deliberately or intentionally setting out to do so, would create certain cues, messages, rules, guidelines about how to live with or not certain feelings or feeling states. Casual observation reveals that certain people like to go to horror movies while others cringe at the thought of it. Still others want to parachute from airplanes or bungee jump from high places, while others fear simply boarding an airplane or looking out the window of a skyscraper.
The Role of The Therapist in Forging Healthy New Dynamics
A trained therapist can help a family understand how they have transmitted messages within the system to deal with or not certain kinds of feelings. This allows the family to have more access to certain feelings and make decisions about how the family wants to respond, react, and speak to various feelings within the family.
This dialogue is a complex one that unfolds over time and allows the family to learn how to become a resource for each other in times of need and crisis. This gives the family a sense of togetherness in the face of whatever challenges may be facing them over the developmental lifetime of the family.
If you have a sense that your family is in a crisis or simply needs expert help breaking through persistent cycles of negativity, I urge you to seek the help of a well trained, sophisticated professional.
When you are ready to untangle yourselves and break through to a new level of understanding and loving communication, I am here for you. Please reach out to at (202) 355-9460 Or send me a message using the form below to schedule a time to meet me at my Bethesda office or at my Annapolis office.