Our family affects who we are, how we interact with others, our vocabulary, habits, our world view, who we are and who we become, for better or for worse.
If you’re born into a family that struggles to maintain health relationships, it’s more likely that you’ll struggle to connect with other people. If you’re family have healthy relationships, your interaction with others will mimic this.
It’s important to understand that if your family does struggle with maintaining healthy relationships, that this situation is not unchangeable. You’re not alone, most families will encounter disfunction, however they work through it to regain happiness.
Family counselling allows you to work on this in a neutral environment, to develop a healthy and functional family.
What are the benefits of family counselling?
In family counselling, families have the opportunity to work on their problems in a safe and controlled environment, with the guidance of a mental health professional.
Family counselling can enhance skills required for health family functioning. This includes communication, conflict resolution, and problem-solving. In family counselling, the focus is on providing all family members with the necessary tools to facilitate healing.
In counselling families can learn:
- listening skills
- learn connotative language
- how to avoid connotative language
- to recognize triggers
- to avoid triggers
- to think before reacting
- to respect boundaries
- *conversation skills
- *communication skills
- how to express empathy
- how to have unconditional regard for other family members
- to clearly define role and identify within the family and as an individual
- how to help and not hurt those loved
- anger is not hatred
- how to dislike actions and still love the actor
- how to use I vs. you statements to avoid conflict, while still communicating needs and desires
- how parents can demonstrate respect toward children, and children’s need for space and individuality without giving up a position of authority
- how body language speaks louder than words
- how to ask for help
- how to receive help
Families and family dynamics are constantly changing. If families fail to communicate and foster healthy relationships through these changes, any change can develop into a negative event for the family. It’s important to understand that families do not, and should not, have to wait for a major event to seek counselling.
Many online counselling services offer flexible communication options, such as email, chat, and video conferencing, as well as flexible fees and payment methods.
Whichever method of counselling works best for you, ensure you seek help before a crisis where possible. Also know that it’s never too late to seek counselling, a bad situation doesn’t mean it is an unchangeable one.
How to introduce family counselling
If you’re looking for a creative icebreaker to family counselling, the ‘Coloured Candy Go Around’ exercise can be a great way to start. It can engage members of the family and minimise resistance to family counselling.
To engage in this exercise with your family, you’ll need a packet of colourful lollies for example Skittles or M&Ms. Distribute seven pieces to each family member and instruct them to sort their lollies by colour (and not to eat them just yet).
Next, ask a family member to pick a colour and share how many they have. For however many lollies of this colour they have, instruct them to give the same number of responses to the following questions based on the colour:
- Green – words to describe your family
- Purple – ways your family has fun
- Orange – things you would like to improve about your family
- Red – things you worry about
- Yellow – favourite memories with your family
When the first family member has given their answers, tell them to choose the next family member to answer the same prompt based on the number of lollies that person has. Once the prompt has been answered, you can eat the lollies.
When all family members have responded to these prompts, initiate a discussion based on the answers provided by the family. The following questions can facilitate discussion:
- What did you learn?
- What was the most surprising thing you learned about someone else?
- How will you work towards making changes/improvements?
It’s a good way to engage your children in talking through family issues. If you’d like to learn more, download the PDF on family therapy written by therapist Liana Lowenstein (this game is on page 3)