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Home » Counseling for Individuals, Couples and Families

Counseling for Individuals, Couples and Families

Many people enter into a counseling relationship when there is something going on in their lives that is causing them a great deal of emotional pain. Others come because they are looking for someone to “coach” them through an important transition. Still others begin therapy because of the trauma of a failed relationship or a chronic illness or because they want to live their lives without depending on someone or something (drugs, alcohol, sex) to make them happy.

Don’t be confused by the word “family” in Family systems counseling. Family Systems counseling is defined by the way we look at problems not the number of people who attend the counseling sessions. As a matter of fact, most counseling in the family system model happens with just one person.

To find out more about this method of counseling, click here. If you are at a place in your life where you want to make some serious changes, you may want to enter into a counseling relationship with Family Systems Therapist.

Counseling Guidelines

Here are some basic guidelines about how the counseling process works.  I hope the following information will help you to develop a healthy counseling relationship and a safe environment.

►What does it mean to be in counseling?

Many people enter into a counseling relationship when there is something going on in their life that is causing them a great deal of emotional pain. Others come because they are looking for someone to “coach” them through an important transition. Still others begin therapy because of the trauma of a failed relationship or a chronic illness or because they want to live their lives without depending on someone or something else (drugs, alcohol, sex) to make them happy.

However, counseling is not a magic fix. No one else has the answers to your questions or the solutions to your problems. But, in a therapeutic relationship with a counselor, you will begin a journey that may lead you to an answer. It might not always be the answer you want, but it may be the answer you need.

The process begins with an “intake interview” during which I will ask you for some basic information (e.g. name, address, etc), and you will have the chance to tell me your story. I’ll probably ask you a simple question like this: “Six months from now, what changes would you like to see in your life?” That doesn’t mean that it will take as long as 6 months for you to solve your problems nor does it mean that in only six months your problems will be behind you. But, your answer to the question will give me an idea of what you are looking for in a counseling relationship, and in six months, we’ll be able to see what progress we’ve made. After we get to know each other in the first few sessions and I’ve had a chance to draw you “family tree” (genogram), you and I will decide if I’m the right person to help you reach your goals. You will be the one who decides if it’s a good match for you. However, I may discover that I do not have the right skills to help you with your issues and I may suggest that you seek another counselor who is better equipped to help you. After the first couple of sessions the real work begins. In a gentle but purposeful way, you and I will talk about your issues and frame them in family systems model. Please note, change is not easy! There will be times when things are going smoothly, and there will be times when change seems impossible. But remember the old adage: “The path is made by walking.” I will walk with you in a way that is both supportive and objective. I will listen to you attentively and ask you questions that will keep you on the path to solving your problems. However, you are the most important person in the journey towards a better life.

►Confidentiality

Therapists value your privacy and respect your right to confidentiality. However, all counselors are legally and ethically bound to inform others in two circumstances: 1) if I believe you may harm yourself or others and 2) in the event of the sexual abuse of a minor.

►Duration

Your counseling relationship may be brief – just a few sessions – or it may go on for quite a while. You are free to end your counseling relationship when your goals are met or at any time along the way. You are also able to take a break from counseling and then start up again at a later date. Once in a while, some folks like to return for a “tune up.”

►Medication

Clients who need special medication to help them deal with depression or anxiety (they are called “psychotropic” drugs) are encouraged to discuss this with their primary care physician. Or, with a referral from your primary care physician, you may wish to consult with a psychiatrist who specializes in psychotropic drugs.

►Family Systems Theory

The name “Family Systems Theory” can be a little confusing at first. Some folks think that their entire family has to attend the counseling sessions. Nothing could be farther from the truth. As a matter of fact, most counseling in the Family System Theory model is done with just one person – the person in the family system who is most interested in change. However, on occasion we may want to ask a significant person from your family to come in and help us out.

When a family member does attend a session, tell them that they are invited to join so that he/she can teach me about your family from his/her point of view. If the counseling relationship starts out with one person, and then shortly after that person’s spouse wants to attend regularly, you can shift to couple counseling. However, if the therapist has been working with one person for a long time, it may not be appropriate to begin couple counseling because the partner who joins late may feel “one down.” In this case it may be necessary to make a referral to a new couples counselor.

The counseling model called Family Systems Theory or Bowen Theory.

Family Systems Theory was developed by psychiatrist Dr. Murray Bowen, MD who was not satisfied with the medical model because the medical model tended to see issues in terms of a damaged individual. Dr. Bowen, and a large group of other family systems therapists, preferred to think about a person’s problems in terms of multigenerational systems. This approach moves people away from blaming others and toward self-responsibility. If you would like a more detailed description of Family System Theory, please visit this page.

Family Systems Theory is very intuitive, that is to say, it will make sense to you because you come from a family, and at some level, you know how families work or don’t work. In many ways, most of your personal growth will take place, not during our counseling session, but during the time in-between your counseling session when you are putting the theory into practice in your everyday life.