Family therapists deal with families in pain. When one person in a family has pain that shows up in symptoms, all family members are feeling this pain in some way. Many treatment approaches are called “family therapy” yet they are oriented primarily to family members as individuals rather than to the family as a unit. A growing body of clinical observations have pointed to the conclusion that family therapy must be oriented to the family as a whole.
On Present Light:
Your past becomes your light when it helps you to notice what’s going on in your present.
- Virginia Satir (One of the founders of Family Therapy-1916-1988)
Today the term family stands for many different compositions alongside the traditional family. Trained Marriage and Family Therapists have specialized training that qualifies them to work with all compositions of families. Family counselling can involve an entire family or various parts of the family yet the goal is to improve relationships and heal pain. I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with several families that have involved 3 generations of members. This is rare given the society we live in and the complexity of issues a family may be struggling with. It is our goal to honour and respect all relationships within the context of family therapy.
Family struggles that can benefit from therapy include:
- Parenting concerns
- Re-married families
- Communication breakdowns and misunderstandings
- Loss and grief
- Death of a child
- Separation or divorce
- Relationships that becomes distant and indifferent
- Sexual Abuse
- Abuse (emotional/physical/mental)
In summary this is a brief list, as families can experience numerous stressors and problems over their lifespan.
What does Family Therapy Involve?
The process of family therapy is not unlike individual therapy in that it can vary in terms of the approach depending on the family dynamics and the family members. The most important aspect is that all members are of equal value and deserve the same level of respect regardless of the issues. The first step is to establish a rapport and connection with each member of a family.
|Some members may be more vocal and others uncomfortable sharing their family story with a therapist. Some families have what Virginia Satir referred to as “Family Rules” that create discomfort when broken such as “what happens in this house stays in this house”. The first few sessions are often about gathering information and delevoping a plan that is designed for your unique family. During this assessment phase often a family of origin map will be done which involves the therapist guiding you through a process of looking at all aspects of your family. This process is done on a large flip chart in the counselling room and will be the ground work for the therapy to follow.
Benefits of Family Counselling:
- Making the commitment to have a healthy family
- Healing relationships and exploring forgiveness and understanding
- Strengthening the bond a family has despite that it may have been broken along the way
- Supporting and encouraging each other on a level that only a strong family can
My husband and I adopted Steven approximately 13 years ago. He is now 17 years old. Steven came to us with some very obvious anger issues. After seeking out a good therapist and attending appointments which didn’t work for Steven and our relationship, we eventually found Bonnie Mason. Bonnie was able to work with our son's anger issues and attachment issues. Steven and I have so much respect for Bonnie; he has turned into a very lovable person. Bonnie has also gone on to help us with other family issues concerning the challenges of birth children and adoptive children within the family.
- M.P., White Rock, BC