Family counseling aims to address psychological, behavioral, and emotional issues that cause family problems. Family members will work with a therapist to develop and maintain a healthy relationship.

Read on to find out more about family counseling and how it works.

Mother and son at a family counselingShare on Pinterest
Family counseling addresses underlying issues between household members, improving their communication, and developing healthy boundaries.

Family counseling, or family therapy, is a method to develop and maintain healthy and functional family relationships.

The goal is to identify and address problems in the family. These issues could be emotional, psychological, or behavioral.

Many approaches to family counseling stem from family systems theory. This suggests that families work in systems, rather than groups of people who function independently of each other.

According to family systems theory, changes in one family member will influence changes in other parts of the family.

The benefits of counseling vary from family to family. They can include:

  • developing healthy boundaries
  • improving communication
  • defining someone’s role within the family
  • improving family dynamics and relationships
  • providing strength and coping tools for family members
  • addressing dysfunctional interactions
  • improving the family’s problem-solving abilities

Research in the Journal of Family Therapy suggests family counseling effectively addresses issues with children, which include:

Family counseling can also help people with mental health issues.

A 2020 study suggests families might find counseling useful for the following reasons:

  • difficulty communicating or expressing emotions
  • conflicts between siblings
  • inconsistent parenting
  • marital problems
  • developing a functional and healthy relationship following a divorce
  • adapting to a major change
  • dealing with a chronic illness or death in the family

Some family counselors offer home visits. These could provide families with more comfort than office-based sessions. However, other families may prefer counseling outside of the home environment.

There are several types of family counseling:

Functional family therapy

This therapy typically focuses on families with a child or adolescent with complex emotional or behavioral problems.

The child and their parents may attend 8–30 weekly sessions together. The sessions will help families learn strategies to deal with the child’s behavior and improve family functioning.

Multisystemic therapy

This therapy aims to address any behavioral and emotional problems of children or adolescents.

Multisystemic therapy also focuses on broader issues with the child’s behavior. For example, it could aim to improve their interaction with social systems, such as schools or neighborhoods.

Transgenerational

This family therapy involves a therapist who examines interactions across generations, such as between parents and children. The aim is to understand how these communications cause problems in the family.

Transgenerational therapy is useful when issues and behavior patterns persist across generations. It might also help predict how problems might develop in the future.

Brief strategic family therapy

The goal of this therapy is to change the patterns of interaction between family members.

It is a time-limited intervention that targets family problems leading to problematic symptoms showing in youths.

Structural therapy

Structural therapy manages problems that arise due to the family structure. It aims to achieve a functioning and balanced family hierarchy, with appropriate boundaries between members.

The key difference with structural therapies is the focus on structure rather than specific behaviors that cause problems.

Some psychotherapists participate in insurance plans, while some are private pay.

It is important to check what services an insurer will cover. Also, people should check that therapists accept particular insurance plans before they attend sessions.

For example, Medicare covers family counseling sessions that focus on mental health treatment.

Some therapists might also participate in employee assistance plans. It is worth checking with an employer whether these schemes are available.

Prices will vary according to the type of therapy, the counselor’s qualifications, the therapist’s location, and the therapy duration.

Firstly, it is important to research a suitable type of therapy and therapist for the family.

Some things to consider when choosing a therapist include:

  • asking the family’s primary care doctor for suggestions
  • asking a friend to recommend a therapist
  • checking the experience and qualifications of a therapist
  • discussing with potential therapists to see if they are a good choice for the family
  • checking the therapist accepts an insurance plan
  • avoiding rushing the decision
  • acknowledging that it may take a few sessions to see if they are right for what the family needs

The goal of family counseling is to address underlying problems that cause family issues. There are several forms of family therapy. Different family problems may require specific types of counseling.

When people research potential therapists, they should check that they accept their insurance plan. They should also ensure their policy covers the particular service needed.