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Serious Family Problems? Why A Family Counselor Can Help

I get a lot of comments and questions about difficult family situations.  One of my first thoughts is “Have they been to a family counselor?”  Yes, I have worked as a family counselor, but I’m not just saying this to boost my profession.  I’m saying it because good family counseling can really work.

The Opportunity Of Family Counseling

A lot of times, I read about these really difficult situations that have gone on for months or even years.  Often times, people just get used to the chaos and problems.  They may think that they are beyond help, they’ve heard from a friend that counseling didn’t work for them, or they simply don’t know what’s available to them.

I used to work with families who had a child about to be removed from the home.  It was either me or their child went under state custody.  That’s probably a tougher situation than many families face, but the stress and unhappiness of family problems still affect everyone.

How Family Counseling Works

Good family counseling works because of a few crucial pieces.  First, a family has its best shot when both parents are committed to the process of change.  The kids being on board is less important, though it can certainly speed things up.  Healthy family dynamics work with the parents being united at the top.  If someone is a single parent, then a strong available parent-like figure can stand in well.

Also, you need a family counselor that really understands how to work with the big picture.  The behaviors and emotions of the kids are probably a symptom of some deeper set issues.  It’s important to address those, but even more important to find out what is “fueling the engine”, so to speak.  Big problems don’t just affect one person in a family – every member is connected with each other.  The entire system is affect, for good or for bad.

It may be something out of everyone’s control, like a death in the family.  Or, it could be the result of disorganized parenting or difficulty managing a strong-willed child.  Perhaps there was a divorce or remarriage.  Drug and alcohol use can put a family into a tailspin.  Whatever the case, the past can’t be undone.  But the patterns can change for the future.  Parents can help address the “elephant in the living room”.  By getting that out in the open, some of the issues might become simpler to deal with (not easier, just more obvious).

Family Counselor There To Support Change For Future

Parents sometimes just don’t know how to handle a really troubling situation.  That doesn’t mean they are bad parents, it means they need information and guidance.  This is where just gathering bits of advice or articles may not be enough to help a family.

A good counselor will help you understand the situation more clearly, will help you focus your efforts of change, and will follow you along with your successes and failures.  That’s just the process of learning, not some kind of judgment.  And ultimately, a really good family counselor works hard to make themselves obsolete in your life.  They want you to be the one holding the reins and seeing the big picture in the end.

You might try a few things before you see something work.  Or you might be discouraged with your kids’ resistance, but glad to see how things improve after the rough times.  A counselor can be that key link between your desire for change and the reality developing in your family.

Getting Started With Family Counseling

People have some mixed feelings about starting counseling, but it’s really one of the better uses of time and money when your family is struggling.  The truth about your family life will be there every moment, whether you see it or not.  When you can see it and understand it, you’ll find better ways to live through the good and bad times together.

Readers, any other questions you have about family counseling in general, I’m happy to answer.  Thanks!

Creative Commons License photo credit: michale

Serious Family Problems? Why A Family Counselor Can Help

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP is a practicing licensed mental health counselor in Nebraska.

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APA Reference
Krull, E. (2011). Serious Family Problems? Why A Family Counselor Can Help. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from


Last updated: 9 Jun 2011
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