If you have an anxious child, you know that everyone in the family is impacted in one way or another. Yet no matter how hard family members try to understand what the anxious child is going through, it is very difficult to grasp exactly what is going on unless you have been through it yourself. This situation can lead to tension, family conflicts, and confusion. When the issue starts to feel too overwhelming for your family to handle, one of the best ways to get help is by participating in family counseling services so that everyone can learn effective skills to manage the challenges of anxiety.
What Is Family Counseling?
Family therapy is a type of psychological counseling (psychotherapy) that can help family members improve communication and resolve conflicts. It is unique compared to other forms of therapy in its framework, often called strengths-based treatment. It views problems as patterns or systems that need adjusting as opposed to blaming the problems on one specific family member.
Family counseling involves having all family members in the room who are affected by the problem at hand. Of course, this is not always possible. It is also important to note that the term “family” is defined by modern terms: anyone who plays a long-term supportive role in one’s life, which means they do not have to be a blood relative or live in the same home.
Family therapy can help in many ways such as:
- Improving communication among family members.
- Developing and maintaining healthy boundaries.
- Identifying creative problem-solving solutions by understanding family patterns and dynamics.
- Minimizing family conflict.
- Creating empathy and understanding.
How It Works
On television and in movies family therapy is depicted as chaotic, with family members attacking each other and blaming one person for everyone’s problems. Of course, this is not reality. Participants often describe it as a supportive and educational experience.
Typically, the family psychologist will first want to talk to everyone in the family to learn about the issues going on and what has occurred up until now. The therapist will want to know how each family member views the problem and what role they play in the family. The therapist will also review how members of the family communicate and express emotions, examine family rules, explore how they typically try to resolve conflicts, and identify their strengths and weaknesses.
After some discussion, the therapist will develop a clear treatment plan to improve conflicts in the family—not to blame anyone for the problem. Ultimately, the therapist will help family members communicate better, solve problems, and learn new ways to work together. The skills that are developed during the counseling sessions will arm everyone with effective tools to address future challenges in healthier ways.
The length of family therapy varies depending on a number of factors like the issues being addressed, if all family members can attend scheduled appointments, and how often sessions take place. The average length is about 12 sessions total, although longer-term treatment is an option if needed.
How Family Counseling Can Help With Anxiety
A review by the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that family counseling is an effective treatment for a number of childhood issues including anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. Since family relationships are important for maintaining good mental health, family counseling services are an ideal method for helping a child deal with anxiety.
Although only one member of the family may be struggling with anxiety, therapy sessions focus beyond the individual to create a support system and identify necessary adjustments for the whole family to make. Family therapy is very helpful for everyone participating because it offers a safe place for family members to express their emotions freely and encourages respect, tolerance, and positive change. Most importantly, everyone can gain a better understanding of the child’s anxiety during this process to ensure that the anxiety issues are addressed with love.
Family counseling may even help prevent the development of anxiety in children, according to a study at the University of Connecticut Health. Researchers found that only 9 percent of children whose families participated in a year-long therapy intervention, where they discussed how to recognize and cope with anxiety, developed an anxiety disorder during the study period. In comparison, 21 percent of children in the control group who received a pamphlet about anxiety disorders developed an anxiety disorder during the study. In a third group, in which families received neither written instruction nor therapy, 31 percent of kids developed anxiety. The researchers were impressed to see how family therapy can play a positive role in preventing cases of anxiety even for children who have relatives with anxiety.
How has family therapy helped you?