Family counselling, like the name suggests, is a type of therapy that involves the whole family. The idea behind is it is that families having difficulties or that have one person who is going through a tough time go to see a counsellor/therapist and try to sort out the issues together.
They work on their relationships with each other, try to improve communication and get an understanding about what factors in the family are causing problems for people. Sometimes families can be affected by certain events or changes – a bereavement, a divorce, moving to a new place or loss of a job – and can need to take some time to deal with whatever’s happened.
Sometimes situations that have gone on for a long time can cause problems, like a lack of communication for example. Going to counselling together can mean no one feels isolated, and that people understand how everyone else is feeling. This can make a big difference in terms of how they behave.
How it works
If you decide as a family to work through an issue or problem, you need to find a counsellor or therapist who specialises in working with families. You find find counselling services in your area in the Golden Pages or in the Counselling Directory. You might need to call or email them to check if they do family counselling.
Make sure to ask whether the service is free or find out how much you will have to pay. If you need to attend a free service, check out the HSE website, call their helpline on 1850 24 1850 or ask your local doctor about services in your area.
Once you’re there, the counsellor/therapist will probably ask you why you decided to come to counselling and try to find out what the main aim of the counselling is. Everyone will get a chance to talk, and you might spend some time getting everyone’s perspective on the situation and how each person feels about it.
Sometimes a few sessions will be required to work through a problem, and sometimes people will then move on to individual counselling – or do both at once. It depends on the situation and what you feel works for you and your family.
Make sure to ask as many questions as you like – the counsellor should be able to tell you how many sessions they think you should have to start off with and how these sessions will work. It’s normal to be nervous, but asking questions can help with that.
Is it for us?
Family counselling isn’t for every family or everyone situation. Sometimes it can be good to get things out in the open with your parents, but there will also be people who find it too hard or have things to say they don’t want their parents or kids to hear. Some family members might find it helpful and others might not. Sometimes parents or siblings aren’t ready for family counselling. It might take some time for them to come around to the idea, or individual counselling might work better.
The first session can be a bit awkward or a bit argumentative, so don’t give up straight away if it seems to have helped too. But make sure you all feel comfortable enough with the person you are seeing. If the counsellor or therapist does anything that makes anyone in the family feel uncomfortable, you can talk about it with them or try a different counsellor.
See counselling for more about individual therapy.