There are a number of considerations you need to make when you are looking for a family counselor that is a perfect fit for your family. The options can seem overwhelming, and it is important to know what you’re looking for so as to have the greatest chance of healing family issues.
One common reason why people are reluctant to seek out a family therapist is that they’re not sure what to look for in a counselor. Unfortunately, another common reason comes down to bad experiences in the past with counselors, which causes anxiety about having a repeat experience.
This article will equip you to make the right decision regarding a family counselor that meets the needs of you and your family. We’ll look at different types of family counselors so that you can make an informed choice, go over the qualities that make a therapist a good fit for your family and look at some of the costs of family therapy.
When Should I Start Looking for a Family Counselor?
A lot of people make the mistake of waiting until there is a crisis before they seek help. Usually, by this point, a number of failed attempts to resolve problems will have been made, and a considerable amount of psychological damage will be been done.
It’s important for you to know that you don’t have to be in crisis in order to approach a family therapist. In fact, it is better to seek out therapy while the issues are still in the early stages because getting help means that you’ll be able to learn skills to handle all the issues that come with family life.
Family counseling has been shown to help in reducing the severity of family problems, and even removing the problems entirely. Central to the success of family therapy is a counselor that meets the needs of all the family members so that every member is able to express themselves honestly during therapy sessions. To find the right family counselor you have to understand your family’s needs.
What are You Looking for in Family Counseling?
People enter family counseling for a variety of reasons and it is vital to understand why you are seeking help. It may be because you are struggling with parenting issues, having communication difficulties with your spouse, or want to support your child through the process of therapy. Some family therapists can address all of these issues, but many will have specialties in different areas, so are more suited to providing specific kinds of therapy.
Many people see couples’ therapy as something which married couples engage in when their relationship has already broken down. It’s seen as a last resort to save the marriage. However, couples’ therapy is not only for couples who have reached this level of breakdown.
Rather, couples’ therapy can help people in relationships whether married, engaged or just dating. One benefit of couples’ therapy is that it increases the level of positive functioning in the relationship. Some people only require a few sessions in which they explore effective communication, conflict management, and handling abusive behavior.
This type of therapy is perfect for families with children who are struggling with relationships with peers or adults in the community, at school or having difficulties at home. Behavior intervention includes both children and adults in the family.
In this type of family therapy, children are able to learn about acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Methods such as rewards, praise and consequences can be utilized. Parents are taught the importance of boundaries, and how to build appropriate reward systems, as well as other important techniques.
Family counselors will often ask parents to describe what happens before, during and after the child’s problem behavior, and use this information to find solutions that will modify the behavior of both the child and the adults in these three areas.
Parents need to be part of behavior intervention sessions as they can learn skills from the therapist that can be later implemented at home.
Parent coaching differs from behavior intervention in that this type of family therapy in that this type focuses on the parents’ behavior. Children may be involved in the sessions, but do not have to be present for parent coaching to take place.
Coaching is a means of developing the skills that parents need to be able to support their child’s emotional, physical and social health. Parenting skills such as effective discipline, boundaries, and communication can be hugely beneficial.
Difficulties Between Parent and Child
Relationship difficulties between parents and children can have a severe impact on family dynamics. Family therapy can be effective in dealing with issues such as disrespect and fights and arguments. Children with mental health issues or who are going through puberty may also be helped by family counselors so that more positive relationships can be forged.
There’s no doubt that raising children can be challenging, and because children are individuals, parenting techniques that worked with older siblings may not work with other children.
This can be particularly frustrating and make relationships between parent and child fraught with stress. Family therapy can offer a means of rebuilding difficult relationships and finding the right skills to deal with issues that arise.
Navigating Systems Involvement (CPS, Police, Schools)
People in crisis often struggle in various different areas of their lives, and this may include education, legal and child protective services. Having the involvement of these systems can cause confusion and raise even more difficulties. You may feel that these outside organizations are taking over and pushing you around.
If you are having trouble dealing with the involvement of outside systems, and feel that you are not being listened to, it can be helpful to consider accessing therapy from a clinical social worker. These specially trained social workers have the skills necessary to navigate systems, provide advocacy, and give you the kind of therapeutic support that you and your family need.
What is Important in a Family Counselor?
The most crucial thing to consider when looking for a family therapist is that they are someone with whom you feel comfortable. Every therapist is different in some way or another, and sometimes a therapist’s manner or approach just won’t fit well with you.
For example, some therapists have a kind of “tough love” approach, which might not work for you, but a therapist who has a gentler approach may be a better fit for you – or vice versa.
Knowing the type of personality or manner in a therapist that would best fit your family is equally important as finding someone with the right kind of specialized skills for your difficulties. It is helpful to read a therapist’s website and articles or blogs they have written, as these will give you clues to the therapist’s personality and approach to therapy.
When you make an appointment with a family counselor, it is a good idea to ask questions about their working methods and their practice. This, too, is an effective way of seeing whether the therapist will be a good fit.
If you have doubts about whether you and your family will be comfortable with the counselor, then remember that there are other therapists who will be a better fit. It may take a little time, but you will find the right therapist for you.
It is helpful to take into consideration the type of practice the counselor has. Some are based on religion, others focus primarily on children or adults. These considerations are important because they are factors that impact the way the therapist is used to working.
Faith-based practices can help by bringing faith into sessions, as part of the healing process, and this is not for everyone. Other practices that cater mainly for adults may not have skills in play therapy or involving children in sessions. Likewise, practices who work primarily with children may not have all the tools needed to work with adult aspects of family therapy, such as adult children.
Other Things to Consider
In addition to issues regarding the type of therapy and the therapist, you should consider the costs involved in family therapy. Family therapy can be expensive, but when you put it into perspective and consider the costs of other failed attempts at healing, it may not seem so expensive.
Therapy is a little like preventative medicine. Investing in therapy now can save a lot of expense and pain in the future. Therapy can also be made more affordable with a little knowledge.
Some therapists will bill insurance directly, classed as in-network providers. This means that they will take payment from you and bill your insurance on your behalf.
However, a lot of therapists will not take insurance directly, because there are high costs involved in their kind of business. They operate as “out of network providers”. This means that they will bill you for the session fee and give you a receipt. This receipt can be given to your insurance provider, and you will get back a percentage of the fee paid.
It is a good idea to ask your insurance provider how much they will reimburse you, and what limitations there are on what they will pay for. It is unwise to assume that your insurance will pay for your therapy and then find yourself in debt because your insurance won’t pay out.
An alternative to paying for therapy as part of insurance (if you don’t want to use your insurance or don’t have insurance) is to pay for therapy “out of pocket”, which is paying the therapist their fee each session. Rates can range between $150 and $200 a session. Fees do vary considerably, so it is vital that you ask your therapist their fee before deciding about therapy.
Many families will pay up to 25% of their combined income on therapy. This may seem like a lot, but don’t forget that therapy is preventative, and can substantially increase functionality in families.
Some therapists offer what is known as a sliding scale for people who may struggle to pay for therapy due to limited income. The therapist changes their rate according to the client’s income. Not all therapists offer this, and the amounts charged can vary considerably. Often their sliding scale will be based on things such as their business operating costs, and the size of their practice in addition to client income.
If you feel that you cannot pay for therapy or that private practice isn’t for you, then there are some non-profit agencies that will accept state insurance if you have it. Other practices may offer discounted therapy from trainee therapists who are not yet fully licensed.
Where Can I Find a Therapist Near Me?
Once you know the type and style of therapist that your family needs, you can start looking in your local area for a therapist that meets your requirements. If you want to find “in-network providers”, your insurance provider may be able to give you a list of therapists who bill directly to them.
If you’re looking for providers who accept state insurance, look for a non-profit in the area who may be able to help.
“Family”, Courtesy of Laurel Harvey, Flickr.com, CC BY 2.0 License; “Engagement”, Courtesy of Duy Truong, Flickr.com, CC BY 2.0 License; “Resting”, Courtesy of Ardanea, Morguefile.com, CC 2.0 License; “One big, happy family,” courtesy of pixabay.com, pexels.com, CC0 License