Our families have profound effects on us for the rest of our lives, for better and for worse. And by the way, all families have problems. There is no such thing as the perfect family/whānau . Most of us do the best we can, but our best is sometimes not enough. We all want to love and be loved, and sometimes it gets too hard and we get stuck. Family counselling (or family therapy), is one way we can free ourselves, our children, so we can have happier families/whānau .Let me draw you a rough map of some of the ways our families shape us, and how family counselling/whānau counselling/family therapy can help, based on my 30 years of experience working with families.
Family counselling - create new family patterns
From when we are in the womb, we prepare to be in our families. Science tells us that our embryonic selves feel our mother’s emotions and the emotional atmosphere around her. Family counselling can help even before a child is born. We can talk about your relationship with your child even at this stage, we can work on how you can create new family patterns instead of repeating the past. We can work on strengthening your couple relationship so that your child has parents who get on and are more likely to stay together.
After we are born, most of us are lucky enough to have one person who cares for us, usually our mother. This relationship is the foundation for our future relationships and is called an attachment relationship. If the relationship is a ‘good’ one, we know deep down that we are ‘belonged’ and loved, and we take this into our lives and relationships. This is called secure attachment. However, for most of us it is not that simple because we have learnt that relationships that can cause us anxiety, make us feel unsafe or cause us harm. These kinds of insecure relationships can cause a lot of trouble in couple relationships. The good news is that we can undo old patterns and learn new patterns so that we can come to feel ‘belonged’ secure, loved and safe.
Family counselling - young people's behaviour
The relationship between a baby and its carer is its world in the beginning, but the parent’s relationship (whether they are together or separated), is also the ‘world’ a child lives and grows inside of. Problems within families often show up in young people’s behaviour. This can be parenting issues, cultural differences in families, identity issues, aggression, fighting, sibling conflict, childhood fears, stealing, confidence issues, refusing to go to school, being close to one parent and not the other, anxiety and insecurity, eating problems, tantrums, depression or low mood, sleeping problems, some teenage problems, etc. I have had many years of experience of helping families with these issues. Some of these problems can be resolved quite quickly. I can also help with the issues that show up in repartnered families.
There are also things that happen in family lives that cause problems. These can be intergenerational issues, abuse, school or peer problems, bullying, grief and loss, couple conflict, affairs, big life changes, such as migration, immigration, moving house or area, moving school, divorce and separation, work stress etc as well as societal issues like poverty, discrimination, racism, homophobia, the effects of patriarchy etc. Many therapists see problems only as individual or family problems. I know this is rarely true. Seeing problems in a wider context can often help people not to blame themselves and to be more empowered in doing all they can to respond to the effects of these problems on their lives.
A strength-based approach
Some therapy models and therapists blame parents for their child’s problems. I know that parents are almost always doing their best with what they have, and I see parents as my partners in helping to bring about change. I want to know all about your strengths so we can use your strengths against the problems we are working on. I also want to know about your child’s strengths and ensure that they don’t see themselves as the problem. My commitment is that everybody feels valued, understood and validated, and that we all work together. If you would like to see how I work, please have a look at the stories from my practice under the publications button.
Family counselling doesn’t always have to include more than one person in the conversation. We carry our relationships inside of us. There are lots of ways I can help you to transform family relationships whether these are past relationships that affect you now, or one’s you are in today. This includes systemic family counselling, narrative family therapy, narrative letter-writing, The Journey Process, and couples counselling. I look forward to meeting you and your family/whānau.
Kay has been fantastic
Thank you again,
Liz ( Mother of Wilbur age 9)