I think I don’t need it, don’t believe in it, and I tend to think it could actually be harmful. But the truth is, family counseling has been a most valuable asset to my family.
I believe family counseling should be as common as a family chiropractor, finding a good local mechanic, or having a gym membership. Most wait till an emergency hits us before attaining a professional. In reality, taking care of problems when they are small is always better than when they overwhelm you.
Your family isn’t perfect, and neither is mine. The trick’s on anyone who thinks their family is beyond problems. I hope you find this article helpful in how family counseling can help you.
But our counseling hasn’t been perfect, either. We’ve learned a lot over the years of family therapy — and therapy in general — that we wished we didn’t waste resources early on. They were “mistakes” — assumptions, prejudices, errors of judgment — that could have saved time and money in our therapy. If I could rewind time, I would cut to the chase much quicker and get to the root of our problems.
I’d like to share with you those three mistakes, and I hope they bless you in you and your family’s journey.
Mistake #1: Focusing on Resistance
That “resistance” I referenced earlier is real, and I find myself constantly in battle with it. It is that inner doubt that tries to pull me away from the things in life that would be most helpful to me. Who needs that? The resistance tells me two lies need to be nailed to the wall.
First lie: counseling is humiliating. I hesitated even writing this article. I suppose no one needed to know, and I could certainly have written about something else. I fear for my family’s reputation whenever I admit to having problems.
But I don’t care anymore. It used to bother me when others thought poorly of my family because of this or that problem. I’m not writing for people who judge us — or, especially, not for people who think too highly of us. I’m writing this for the families out there ready to consider counseling for themselves.
Second lie: counseling will make things worse. I suppose it could. Just as we can receive good counsel, we can receive bad counsel, and we fear the outcome worse than the problems we have now. But that’s not a reason to avoid it altogether.
We’ve heard the horror stories. Counseling starts, divorce/rebellion/depression/hell follows. Why rock the boat? If things are fine or tolerable, just live with it. Pretend your problems are not there, and never come to terms with the real pain in your life.
That will drain the life blood from your family, and you know it.
Ignoring the need for counseling is not the answer. Instead, take the time to seek out a counselor that works for you and your family and then start.
If problems aren’t being solved (and especially if they’re getting worse), kindly stop and seek an alternative. The counseling itself isn’t the mistake. Thinking you don’t need it is.
For my house, we have found great rewards from family therapy. There is no shame in getting the necessary help to work through family issues.
Mistake #2: Focusing on Others.
Here’s a mistake I have found people (including myself) make when going to counseling. They want to talk about other people. Other family members, especially, seem to be the scapegoat for personal problems.
In reality, your problems are about you.
This fuels more hesitation — more resistance — in me. I’ve been blessed over the years with good counsel, but I see people go to therapy and get bad advice, and the error typically seems to concern anyone other than the person being counseled.
You’ve heard their stories, haven’t you?
- “My husband/wife refuses to do whatever,” so therefore divorce them.
- “My loved ones didn’t love as they should have,” so therefore hate them.
- “My family members won’t change,” so therefore alienate them.
These are shallow reactions to deep issues that a professional family therapist can help you navigate through. Why are you coming to such unloving conclusions? Before lashing out or cutting off relationships, our counselors have asked, “How do you feel about these situations?”
You can judge this as “feel good psychology,” I suppose. But rethink this for a moment. Consider the alternatives to counseling: divorce, hate, alienation. These are awful roads to travel, stubborn choices that ruin our lives.
Instead, take in the solutions that counseling attempts to offer, and these solutions are about you, your problems, and your participation in them. The only thing you have control over is you. You can’t control your spouse, your relatives, your coworkers, or anyone. Good counsel helps you focus on that only person you have control over: you.
This is perhaps the wisest bit of counseling advice when entering therapy.
Mistake #3: Focusing on Justification.
I have found this third mistake my fatal flaw. I seem to keep making this mistake, but I’m getting better at avoiding it. We focus on justifying our fallacious beliefs, when we really should be asking ourselves the hard questions against them.
In other words, we want to be told we’re on the right track in life (and others are on the wrong track), when good counsel should help steer us back to reality. Back to truth. The truth that will set us free.
I remember how knotted up Wendy and I were about 10 years ago. We were angry with family members, angry with each other, angry at the world. We had been seduced to believe some far-out beliefs, beliefs that we thought were true — even holy and pure — but had turned out to be harmful to us, our children, and even friends and extended family.
I’ve blogged about these things in the past, and I hope I can go more into detail about them in the future. Suffice it to say that we were lured into legalism, patriarchy, and anything but love. We walked through a journey with a rigid church split and a family overhaul that we still — to this day — need help sorting out.
We worked through some intense issues at the time, and I shudder to think what my life would have been like if I clung to ideologies of old that sucked life from my family. The counsel we received was just what we needed. I refer back to that time in our life as a “born again” experience, much like a rebirth of faith and family.
I’m still experiencing such metamorphoses. I hope the same for all families. Therapy could help, and it very well may be just what you and your family needs.