Ideally, a family provides a safe retreat and place of support for all of its members.
But, sometimes families can get pretty complicated. After all, each family member is also an individual with their own needs, interests, personality, temperament, and role within the family. So there are quite often times when one person’s desires don’t fit well with the needs of other family members or the the family as a whole.
Challenges also occur because families are not a group of equals, but rather have parents with more power, responsibility, and authority than the dependent children.
And of course, families are not static. They are constantly shifting and changing, especially related to the developmental stages of the children.
So it’s not really surprising that families sometimes encounter new challenges and difficulties. Of course, not all such family difficulties require counseling. But, sometimes the usual ways for dealing with conflicts in the family do not work or communication and cooperation may be seriously breaking down. At those times, counseling for individual members of the family – or the whole family – may be helpful. And as with most problems, making adjustments in families or with children is usually easier if it is addressed early.
The approach I use when counseling with a child, parents, or whole family varies depending upon each family’s unique circumstances. I have worked with hundreds of children and families over the past 40 years and will draw on that experience to make recommendations about the most effective approach for counseling with you or your family.
Parent – Child Counseling
When a younger child (approximately ages 6 – 12) is having difficulties, counseling usually involves the child and one or both parents participating in the sessions together. The child’s confidentiality is limited, meaning the parents are typically fully informed of information the child shares.
To be most effective, counseling with adolescents often requires a greater degree of confidentiality be offered to the child. The degree of confidentiality is specified and agreed to by the therapist, child, and parents at the beginning of counseling. There may be a benefit to periodically having sessions that include the parents, especially as the child becomes ready to address and resolve issues with them directly.
Family counseling usually involves all of the family members participating in the sessions together. There are times when this approach is the most effective, especially when the family communication has really broken down. It’s also often beneficial when the family’s difficulties come from an underlying situation that has affected the whole family (new blended family, loss or grief, family move, etc.) Occasional family counseling sessions can sometimes also be beneficial as a part of child or adolescent counseling.
Parent Counseling and Consultations
Parents hold unique position within a family and there are times when it is most effective to meet with them alone. For instance, this may be the best approach when parents have differing parenting styles or two families are being blended together. Sometimes parent counseling is the more effective approach, even when the primary concerns are with a child’s behavior.
Please view the Parenting Consultation page for more detail on this form of counseling.