Counseling for Families

Family time shouldn’t be stressful.

Let’s talk about resolving conflicts and growing closer together.

Contrary to popular belief, family therapy is not only for “dysfunctional” family problems. The truth is that ANY family can benefit from expressing experiences in a safe space. Maybe your family is experiencing a divorce. Maybe your family is struggling to cope with the loss of a grandparent. You might be frustrated by your teenager’s desire for greater independence. Maybe your children are struggling to adjust after moving to a new city or starting at a new school. You might want to re-bond with extended relatives after a period of estrangement. Or maybe you and your adult siblings are seeking a space to understand each other better.

Beyond interpersonal concerns, sometimes family therapy is the ideal option for cases when one member of the family is struggling with something like an eating disorder, addiction, or self-harm behaviors. Sometimes issues can seem like “individual problems” on the surface, but usually when treated in the context of the family as a whole, complex relationship dynamics are revealed. Addressing these can be a significant part of the healing process for the individual. As a result, the entire family is strengthened.

There are an unlimited number of circumstances where family therapy can help. In any case, exploring the underlying themes and patterns that make up your family relationships can often be a transformative experience. Family therapy provides an opportunity to improve conflict-resolution skills, enhance communication, foster greater empathy for one another, forgive each other for past mistakes, and discover healthy ways to address family challenges.

River Oaks Psychology is committed to honoring the diversity of all families, holding space for the experiences of people in nuclear families, single-parent families, blended families, adoptive families, same-sex families, extended families, foster-parent families, childless families, and more. In addition, we recognize the importance of “chosen” families whereby members are not related by blood but have nonetheless become a family unit. We understand that all families are valid and there is no right or wrong way to become a family. Further, we are committed to understanding the unique experiences of family members who hold a different minority identity from the rest of their family, including family members of a different race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion, or other difference.

Please note there is no requirement to have ALL members of your family present for family therapy to occur. We trust our patients to determine which individuals from your family would like to participate in therapy. We are also happy to help you explore these decisions together. Our goal is to help your family achieve greater wellness together and move toward a stronger future together.

Therapy can help families by:

  • Allowing for a consistent, non-judgmental space for family members to express themselves
  • Developing solutions to problems that interfere with positive family relationships
  • Addressing problems related to family fighting, ongoing arguments, miscommunication, and more
  • Learning healthy coping skills and strategies to manage challenges relating to a family separation or divorce
  • Processing thoughts and feelings related to a blended family and discovering healthy ways to bond
  • Confronting situational problems impacting family dynamics, such as finances, parenting stress, and more
  • Strengthening skills for problem-solving, decision-making, and the balancing of multiple family roles
  • Addressing issues related to addiction, substance abuse, domestic violence, or other major challenges
  • Exploring disagreements in a safe space and developing compromises that meet the needs of everyone
  • Learning how to replace dysfunctional behavioral patterns with positive alternatives to repair bonds
  • Helping teenagers and parents better understand one another and resolve interpersonal friction
  • Exploring family relationship problems that surface due to major life changes, grief, chronic illness, and more
  • Helping children cope with feelings of neglect or abandonment after the birth of a younger sibling
  • Learning healthy ways to support a loved one with anxiety, depression, and eating disorder, or other concern
  • Expressing thoughts and feelings related to differences in religious beliefs, political views, moral values, and more
  • Exploring patterns of resentment, frustration, boundaries, and trust issues that interfere with family harmony
  • Fostering greater acceptance toward a loved one’s identity as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community
  • Discovering healthy ways to talk about sensitive issues, such as sex education, death, or controversial issues
  • Helping to address attachment concerns, such as a family member experiencing intense separation anxiety
  • Learning the differences between signs of a toxic family relationship and signs of a healthy family relationship
  • Learning how to communicate or speak up in healthy ways to get your needs met within a family
  • Helping family members understand how to support each other’s overall life goals and aspirations
  • Building confidence in the strength of the family as a whole and restoring hope for a future together
  • Helping a family member overcome trauma and exploring the best ways to support the healing process
  • Collaboratively developing new ideas for family activities and healthy strategies for consistent family bonding
  • Strengthen each family member’s understanding of one another, leading to greater empathy for each other

We can help families answer:

  • Why does it feel like my family is always fighting?
  • How can I help my children adjust after a divorce?
  • How can we best support our child with mental health struggles?
  • How can a family build more empathy toward each other?
  • What are the best ways for a blended family to bond?
  • What are the recurring themes that cause us to feel unhappy?
  • How can I improve my relationship with my teenager?
  • How can we cope with our incompatible political beliefs?
  • Why don’t my parents understand me or validate my feelings?
  • How can I support my family member with an eating disorder?
  • How can I still give my firstborn child attention after the birth of a new baby?
  • How can my family work on accepting my LGBTQIA+ identity?
  • How can I tell my adoptive parents that I want to learn about my birth parents?
  • How can we remain close as a family despite substance abuse issues?
  • What are some ways that we can enjoy more activities together?
  • How can we create more consistency with open communication?
  • How can we build more empathy and interpersonal trust between each other?
  • Why does it feel like my family will never recover from the loss of our loved one?
  • How can family members reunite after we have been estranged from each other?
  • What are some of the best ways to have difficult conversations among each other?
  • How can we finally heal from resentment that has lasted for many years?
  • Why does it feel like my family members are always holding a grudge against me?
  • How can we get a handle on the behavioral problems among our children?
  • How can my family and I learn better conflict-resolution skills?
  • How can we make family holidays more enjoyable for everyone?
  • How can we learn to validate each other’s feelings and listen to one another more?
  • Why is it so hard to set boundaries with family members?
  • How can my family and I learn to compromise and accept imperfections?
  • How can my partner and I make sure our children are feeling nurtured enough?
  • How can my adult siblings and I learned to get along even though we are so different?
  • How can we cope with a “family secret” involving past trauma that was just revealed?
  • Why don’t my parents understand that I’m burned out from watching my younger siblings?
  • How can we talk to our kids about issues like disabilities, medical conditions, cancer, etc.?
  • What are some ways that my family can heal from some domestic violence that occurred?
  • How can I still protect my teenager while also granting them some independence?
  • How can we adjust to changing family roles while also maintaining some familiar bonds?
  • How can we help our kids adjust to our recent move to a new city or attending a new school?
  • What are the best ways that we can work on reducing criticism toward each other?

How do we know if we need family therapy?

Sometimes it’s hard to determine if therapy is right for your family. Movies like Little Miss Sunshine (2006) and TV shows like Shameless (2011) portray intense family dysfunction that leave some people thinking, “my family isn’t like that, we don’t need therapy.” We want you to reject the idea that your family needs to have visible dysfunction in order for therapy to be justified. At River Oaks Psychology, there is no need for a family to have an identified “problem” in order to benefit from therapy. In fact, sometimes the best family therapy sessions are derived from healthy individuals who have come to receive support for continued wellness. Many families view therapy as a preventative health measure to deepen their understanding of each other and to guard against future conflicts.

In other words, family therapy can be a safe space to simply get to know each other better and to reflect on day-to-day stress in each other’s lives. It can also be a safe environment to talk about sensitive issues, such as death, sexuality, religion, chronic illness, politics, school concerns, parenting styles, and more. We want you to remember that therapy is controlled by you – it is your time, your space, your session, and your opportunity to use the support from your therapist in whatever way feels most helpful.

Therefore, if you are debating whether or not therapy is necessary, remember there is no need to reach a certain unhappiness threshold in order for therapy to be helpful.

Some signs that may indicate a need for counseling include:

  • Frequent fighting or ongoing arguments among each other with little hope for resolution
  • Experiencing a difficult adjustment to parents choosing to separate or divorce
  • Children feeling neglected or abandoned after the birth of a younger sibling
  • Struggling with adjustments relating to a blended family, such as a new stepmom or stepdad
  • Child and adolescent behavioral problems, relating to school, friends, safety, or emotional health
  • Not knowing how to support a loved one with anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, or other concern
  • Struggling to accept a family member’s personal identity as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community
  • Any adoption-related challenges, whether seeking to adopt or whether an adopted child is struggling
  • Family difficulties stemming from the learning curve of being new parents for the first time
  • Struggling with the re-bonding of family members after previously being estranged from one another
  • Not knowing how to talk to family members about a loved one’s disability or medical condition
  • Ongoing family grief (loss of a loved one, loss of abilities, missing the past, or other types of grief)
  • Experiencing financial or housing difficulties, which cause a great deal of stress on the family unit
  • Conflicts between teenagers and parents, often arising from teenager desires to increase independence
  • Older siblings having to take on parenting responsibilities of younger siblings and feeling burned out
  • Family struggles due to miscommunications, incompatible personalities, or value differences
  • Making quick family decisions without fully exploring thoughts, feelings, and consequences for everyone
  • Feeling anxious, depressed, irritable, resentful, or generally upset about family dynamics
  • Unable to tolerate emotional pain caused by family dynamics which may be interfering with forgiveness
  • Family members feeling angry or generally upset about necessary family compromises
  • Struggling with balancing family responsibilities that are negatively impacting the relationships
  • Difficulty adjusting to new family roles, for example, when a young adult child moves away to college
  • Family challenges caused by moving to a new city and becoming acclimated within a community
  • Family conflicts related to differences in religious beliefs, political views, moral values, and more
  • Reduced ability to solve problems in the family or feeling incapable of moving forward
  • Frequent criticism among each other or instances of disrespect, hostility, or lack of empathy
  • Socially withdrawing from each other due to problems in the family dynamics
  • Patterns of manipulation, distrust, reduced vulnerability, lack of bonding, or emotional detachment
  • Problems related to attachment-styles, such as family members experiencing intense separation anxiety
  • Trouble sleeping, feeling abnormally fatigued, generally drained due to family stress
  • Struggling to set and maintain appropriate boundaries between family members
  • Alcoholism or substance use disorders that are negatively impacting the family relationships
  • Any signs of domestic violence, abuse, harassment, or desires to hurt one another
  • Coping with the aftermath of “family secrets” being revealed, particularly in relation to trauma
  • Feeling emotionally overwhelmed by any kind of family stress that is causing friction in the relationships

Families and Telehealth

We love telehealth and list many benefits on our page, Why Online Therapy.

But there is another advantage of telehealth specifically for families:  you and your family members do not need to be in the same location to participate in video sessions with your therapist. Our secure video therapy platform allows multiple people to access the video sessions from separate digital devices. Therefore, it’s not necessary for you and your family members to be sitting on the same couch sharing one digital-screen together. This is perfect for family members who do not live together, those with opposite work schedules, or those who simply prefer to sit alone during sessions.

How does Informed Consent work for families?

For family therapy, to comply with clinical record protocols, we can only list one member of the family as “the patient.” If the patient in family therapy is under 18, we require a parent/guardian with custodial rights to electronically sign our Informed Consent document (see more details under Counseling for Kids or Counseling for Teens.)

If using insurance, the family member serving as the patient will provide their individual insurance plan information. We are unable to split treatment costs between multiple people or multiple insurance plans.

Determining which individual should be the patient in family therapy can sometimes be confusing. Please consider a variety of factors, such as, insurance coverage, which individual is experiencing the primary concerns, or which individual will be present for the greatest number of sessions. If you have questions regarding how to determine who should be listed as the patient, please contact us and we will be happy to help you make this decision.

Please note that family therapy is not appropriate when there are problems interfering with the process, such as intentional hostility or abuse, untreated addictions, or other concerns directly interfering with therapy. While arguments or intense emotions are allowable and may occur in therapy, all family members should be interested in treatment and demonstrate a willingness to cooperate together. Most importantly, your therapist can talk to you more specifically about their therapeutic style and what will work best for your family.