When many envision family therapy, they picture a tense family gathered on couches in a family therapist’s NYC office, clutching couch cushions and resentment. NYC families have their share of challenges and resentments and bring those with them to family counseling. At its best, though, a choice to seek family therapy, whether in-person family therapy or remote family therapy via phone or video chat, is the beginning of the end of those resentments.
Often families are made up of two people who are a couple, either married or otherwise partnered. While many of the same principles apply, we say more here about couples therapy.
In family counseling, the hardest part is gettin’ em in the door. Your family therapist can take it from there.
In most families who seek a family therapist, there’s a leader–someone who’s taken the initiative to find a family therapist and seek help on behalf of the family. Often this is a parent but in adult families (more on that below) it may be an adult child/ sibling who organizes the call for family counseling.
Families can be terrible at listening to one another, and the rifts can last for years. In family therapy we can help shift the paradigm from individual tugging (how can we meet everyone’s needs?) to group contributions (what does the family need?). Families may require a breadth of resources; my background in education and child services enables me to assess the needs across a range of potential issues, and make recommendations accordingly. Most of all, we can help each family member see the others as they are, rather than as that family member wishes they were. Once family members begin to relate to each other that way, rifts can often heal.
Family therapy versus counseling for kids or counseling for teens
Often the choice is made before the first phone call to a family therapist–whomever is reaching out to seek therapy has already determined the shape of that therapy. In some cases a child or teen is seeking therapy and the search is for a teen therapist or a child therapist. In others, the request is for family counseling. It’s always of value in that first therapy call to investigate just that question and the value of that investigation continues in to the first family therapy treatment.
At its heart, the question is how we identify a problem in family therapy. Nearly always, this identification is implicit–most of the time families don’t say “Jimmy is the problem in our family.” And yet we often act that way. To be clear, individuals bring challenges, and can be hurtful in families and elsewhere, but there’s valuing in looking at everything (we might say) systemically–meaning understanding what “Jimmy” (or whomever) is doing in the context of how the family works together as a whole.
All kinds of families in family therapy (including the family you define)
Families look different from one another. This is especially true if you’re looking for a family therapist in NYC. We frequently see families in family therapy where one or more children in the family are adopted (and we have two family therapists on staff who come from adoptive families), and work with both adoptive families and families of origin (often together, in the case of open adoptions). We provide family therapy to gay and lesbian couples, unmarried couples, couples where the parents don’t live together, families where parents live together but see other people, step families and on and on. Our family therapy is as diverse as NYC’s families.
Creative disruption and family therapy
Disruption is a popular word in NYC’s tech start-up world these days. The sentiment expressed–taking on an industry that’s stuck in its ways and “disrupting” its way of functioning–is applicable in family counseling as well. A skilled family therapist seeks to creatively “disrupt” the way things are functioning in a family–we have to, because without that disruption, things can’t change.
Adult families in family therapy
The standard conception of family counseling is a nuclear family with school-age children. That nuclear family isn’t so often a reality in NYC, but similarly, not all families who seek family counseling have children. Often adult families need help from counseling regarding how they relate to one another as adults, but also with issues related to caring for aging parents and grandparents, cultural differences that emerge with partners, issues related to money and estates and on and on.
It’s all related
We believe families function as a sort of system. When one family member is struggling, everyone is. But the reverse is also true: We can help everyone in the family by engaging everyone in the therapy. If part of the system grows, everyone grows.