Seeking therapy can be intimidating and overwhelming. Acknowledging to yourself that you need help is hard, and acknowledging it to someone else can be even harder. This can be especially true in a family context. Some parents who enter into family therapy might be feeling at their wits’ end, or perhaps they are feeling like failures. There can be a lot of shame, discomfort, and anxiety in opening up about “family problems” to a stranger. In some cultural contexts that is a huge no-no, and in today’s multicultural society that can come with its own unique sets of challenges.
Whatever has led you to this place of seeking, you know that you’re ready to ask for help. Now the questions come:
- Who do I go to for family therapy?
- Are there different kinds of family therapists?
- What treatment options are available to families?
- What if I don’t like my therapist but someone else in my family does?
- Is there a special kind of therapy just for families?
- Is my child too young to participate in family therapy?
All of these questions and more can come up as you navigate what is right for your family. Luckily, these questions can be answered fairly simply. Any therapist who is comfortable working with families is a great place to start. In Tennessee, we have a special designation called LMFT which stands for Licensed Marital and Family Therapist. These therapists have both gone to school and chosen to specialize in the theories and techniques best suited to serve families. However, many therapists without this special license are trained and happy to work with families. Many therapist websites include specializations and preferred clients for each clinician.
Anyone looking into therapy should feel comfortable with their therapist and confident in their abilities. It does not hurt our feelings to ask us questions about our qualifications, experience, and theoretical lens. Trust me – we want what is best for you too! The first few sessions are often more of a “get to know you” for both the client and the therapist, and the hope is that all parties involved feel comfortable moving forward. If, for whatever reason, you do not feel that you and your therapist are a good match, it is perfectly acceptable to seek help elsewhere.
Therapy is available and accessible for people of all ages. Play therapy for children has proven to be effective for children as young as two years old, and many therapists recognize the benefits of children seeing their families work on tough topics and relational challenges together. Additionally, therapists like to see how the entire family system functions as a whole. Despite the fears that children can “interrupt” the therapeutic work in a session, this is not necessarily the case. It is often helpful to see how the individuals in the family each affect one another.
While this article does not dive deeply into the therapeutic techniques and strategies used by therapists, I hope this serves as encouragement that every family, and every therapist, is unique. Most therapists will have a preferred theory to serve as a framework for their sessions, but nearly every therapist works with the clients to tailor a treatment that will be effective. This can be examined from session to session and updated as needed. Essentially, it’s the trust and relationship that is built in the therapy office that makes the difference. If you find yourself here looking for family therapy, several of our therapists are licensed or pursuing licensure as an LMFT, and even for those who are not, there are several who specialize in family therapy. So, what are you waiting for? Let us know how we can help you today!