Chances are that many of you know at least one family in counseling. And it is even more likely that you did not learn this information off the bat. In fact a deep relationship was probably present before the family member offered the information that they were in fact seeing professional help to sort out their family problems. Sometimes there are two reactions from others when they hear the news that a friend is going to family counseling. The first reaction is something along the lines of “I had no idea you guys had problems, is there anything I can do to help?” The second, well meaning, reaction sounds similar to “Oh that’s just wonderful, it will help out your family so much.” When taking a second look at both reactions we can sense two underlying messages either that the person had no clue what was going on with the family, or the person obviously knew there were problems. Why do most Christian families turn to counseling to solve their issues? In my experience there are about five main reasons why a family would choose to spend an hour a week in the office of a stranger talking about their problems.
1. The Black Sheep
Family counselors use the term the “identified patient” to describe the family member that is being blamed for the family’s problems as a whole. This term was coined within the conjoint therapy movement and explains the rebellious teenager, the alcoholic dad, or the ADHD younger sister. All roles are disrupting the family balance, or homeostasis. Many families will come to counseling because the black sheep of the family has been such a bother that they want the therapist to “fix” them and show the therapist that the family will function more adequately once they are fixed. The role of the therapist in this situation would be to allow each family member the opportunity to understand how they have added to the problem.
2. Crisis Mode
Families in crisis are commonly showing their faces in the counseling office. This family is suffering from addiction like alcoholism, or compulsions such as gambling. This family also could have been through a natural disaster together like a tornado or a hurricane. Typically, the family is struggling to cope with what they witnessed or are going through and the goal of the therapist is to assist the family with verbalizing their story and sharing their emotions.
3. Fence Needs Mending
Many families struggle to keep appropriate boundaries within their relationships with one another and outside of the family. A boundary is an invisible barrier that allows individuals to keep safe people closest to them and people who are unsafe at a distance in order to protect themselves (Philipians 4:7). This family will often times share inappropriately with one another, or have high expectations of the members in the family.
4. Ouch that Hurt!
This family is experiencing some form of abuse in some way. Many people discount the effects of verbal abuse but it can look as simple as yelling at one another. Often times when there is physical abuse currently present within the family there is verbal abuse lurking around as well. Some other ways abuse is evident is financial abuse, psychological/emotional abuse, and sexual abuse. If you or a loved one may be experiencing domestic violence please feel free to visit this link and get some information in order to get help.
5. Family in Mourning
A family that is suffering loss will be struggling in ways that will often lead them to counseling. These families are struggling to handle their short term grief feelings and often times will be seeking encouragement and ways to handle their sadness. Grief that is not handled appropriately can turn into depression, so it’s imperative that these families work it out together.