Why Should the Whole Family Come to Counseling?
Family counseling helps everyone in a family unit or household understand their role in how the family operates. What everyone needs and wants is discussed so that agreements and changes can be made that help all family members treat each other with kindness, empathy, and good boundaries.
Focusing on the needs and hurts of the whole family can help parents and kids have open communication and strong emotional bonds. It can limit the high drama, frustration, disrespect, rebellion, secrecy, risky behaviors, and betrayals that can cause life long resentments.
Often, when a member of the family is having a hard time, that individual is sent to counseling to “fix their problem”. But families are little mini-systems, and what affects one affects all in some way.
The Impact of One on the Whole System
Think of the mobile that hangs over a baby’s crib. When one part is touched, all the parts are set into motion. It’s the same in family systems. When dad is stress out, angry, drinking or absent, 13 year old Shana doesn’t get to experience having a healthy, helpful, and collaborative relationship with an adult male. Instead, she is negatively impacted by his moods and behaviors.
Is something similar happening in your home?
Maybe Shana begins to deal with her own frustration by slamming doors, sneaking out, or by not talking to either parent. What she doesn’t do is ask for what she wants without fear or shame. Through her experience, she learns that she can’t get her needs met without manipulation and drama.
Do your children say how they feel without blaming or dissolving into angry tears?
The mom in this family is building up her own set of stresses about her husband’s lack of attentiveness to household responsibilities, judgmental attitudes, and emotional abandonment. She senses that he wants out of the marriage, and that puts her on an irritable edge, afraid of even asking him how she might help him deal with his stress more productively. Shana gets the brunt of it through their mother-daughter fights over inconsequential things.
Are you pulled between trying to keep the peace and feeling heard by your family?
Everyone in this family is hurting, and coping with their stress in dysfunctional ways.
Sending Shana to therapy isn’t going to change her family system, and she could carry the scars of her damaged relationship with her father and her resentments towards her mother into other significant relationships, possibly for a lifetime.
Sending dad to therapy alone may not change the mom or daughter’s unhappiness.
And while mom coming to counseling by herself might help her become more assertive or less confrontational, the family unit could remain troubled.
Changing the Family Dynamic Helps All
In family counseling, each member is assisted in sharing their experience of what it is like to be in the family. Every member has the opportunity to state how they genuinely feel about the pressures and expectations put on them, and what they’d like to be different.
The counselor’s role is to help each family member understand the needs of others, and to work together on the hard issues until everyone feels valued and heard.
In Shana’s situation, family counseling could help dad understand how his stress and coping style is hurting himself, his marriage and his daughter. Working with the whole family could help mom discover how to help him while getting her own partnership needs met. Both parents would learn the parenting style that works best for Shana’s personal psychological development. And Shana would learn how to have more empathy and respect for her parents, and
In these extremely busy and anxious times, NYC families are running a dozen directions at once with little time left over to deal with difficult emotions and negative behaviors. But not dealing with them creates bigger problems down the road.
If your family life in chaos, if kids are unruly,
if parents are beyond stressed out, it’s time to check out
what family counseling can do for you.
Call Vladimire Calixte, LMHC
Or email me at
Family should be a welcoming and nurturing place
Let me help you create that