While at my daughter’s karate class recently, I overheard her instructor talking to the group about perseverance and the importance of never giving up and working hard to accomplish your goals. It was nice to hear him addressing something that I had told her many times throughout her young life. Hoping to have my parenting skills reinforced by my daughter after class ended, I said to her, “That was cool what Mr. John said in class. Have you ever heard that before?” I slowly began grinning on the inside as I was certain she would say, “Of course Dad, I hear that all the time from you,” and I would be further validated that I was doing a good job as a dad. Much to my surprise, but not really, she replied, “No, I’ve never heard that before.” I envisioned my palm smacking my forehead in disbelief but in reality, I replied with something like, “Well, that’s a good message to hear,” and we walked together to the truck to head home.
At this point, you may be wondering what this has to do with family therapy but I share that story with you to emphasize that conversations like that happen in families all the time, mine included. Whether the parent is unemployed, a child mental health specialist like myself, a construction worker, stay-at-home mom, or anything in between, children often listen more to others than they do their own parents. That’s where a family therapist comes in. I often explain to families during the first session that my role in family therapy is kind of like that of a double agent. I am able to say things to kids that their parents have been saying all along, like my daughter’s karate instructor, and for whatever reason, it resonates more when it comes from me if for no other reason than I am not their parent. Also, I am able to say things to parents that children might not feel comfortable saying or lack the verbal/conversational skills to talk about effectively. In that way, I’m able to play both sides, with one goal in mind, to improve family communication and understanding.
We found that the vast majority of difficulties that bring families in for counseling revolve around ineffective, inconsistent communication patterns. Through family therapy, both parents and children are given a voice and an opportunity to openly talk about challenges they are experiencing, whether it be resolving past emotional hurts, life transitions like divorce or remarriage, grief, and loss, or any other number of challenges families face. As these situations are brought into the therapy session, the therapist is then able to use their role as a “double agent” to model positive communication to children and parents and encourage them to practice on their own outside of therapy.
Ultimately, research has consistently shown that the presence of safe, healthy adults in the lives of children lead to positive outcomes and an increase in protective factors and resiliency. A family therapist can be one of those safe adults who help families navigate through the challenges that life often throws our way.
Our vision is to inspire and empower change in our clients. We focus on guiding our clients to rally their strengths, discover new strengths and ideas so that you can first overcome and second reach your goals. We will work directly with families to identify goals for therapy that include improving communication, self-esteem, and parenting skills, as well as decreasing defiant behavior, anxiety, depression, and trauma-related symptoms. Please give us a call today and we will be happy to get you started.