Many of us dream of families gathered around a dining room table that is loaded down with scrumptious food. We picture the children laughing and running around the table while the adults calmly sip their coffee after dessert. However, it seems that ideal might just be a dream when you are embroiled in the chaos of family dynamics and in need of Christian family counseling.
Families go through seasons of struggle and heartache – it is a normal part of life. But what happens when the struggle becomes too much? Maybe it’s dysfunctional habits, an unruly teenager, an aging parent, or financial setbacks that make you feel as if one more straw will break your back.
The good news is that a licensed counselor could help your family to understand and empathize with each other while growing closer in those personal relationships.
Is family counseling a good fit for your family?
With the elimination of the stigma that once adhered to counseling and mental health, more people are choosing to work with a counselor for family counseling to get to the root of certain behaviors affecting the environment and others in the home. When one person’s behavior disrupts daily life for the family as well as the family member, then you may need outside help.
The most common reasons to seek marriage and family counseling are:
- One family member has addiction issues. This includes illicit drugs, prescription drugs, and alcohol. If the family member’s judgment is impaired by substance abuse, then the rest of the family may not feel safe.
- A family member is going through hormonal and behavioral changes. A house full of teenagers, tweens, and a menopausal woman can cause emotions to run high as everyone’s hormones fluctuate.
- One family member is demonstrating aggression and anger issues. An emotionally unstable family member can frighten younger children. If the family member is behaving violently, then seek help immediately.
- A family member isn’t getting over the loss of a loved one or pet. Complicated grief is a real mental health concern. The family member may have trouble accepting that their loved one is gone, or they become obsessed with the person’s memory.
- Family members are distancing themselves from others in the household. This could be one family member exhibiting symptoms of depression, or a bully-like isolation tactic between siblings.
- One or more family members have a mental health condition such as clinical depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It’s difficult at times to live in close quarters with people showing signs of a mental health disorder, especially if the condition leads to mood swings, irritability, manic episodes, or threats.
- Family members are no longer communicating with one another. As if living in a silent bubble, everyone seems to go their own way. You feel as if your family is unraveling.
- The children in the family are acting out and misbehaving at home and at school. This could be as mild as raising their voice, to more serious problems such as lying about other people or stealing.
- Family members are having a hard time resuming life after a tragedy such as a house fire or home invasion. A tragedy rips away the security blanket that we want to believe is our home. It may take some time to move past the trauma from fire or assault.
Reaching out for Christian family counseling may be exactly what your family needs in this season.
What about Christian family counseling?
Christian family counseling is a great alternative to regular therapy. For Christians, it is a way to combine faith with daily life in a relevant way. It is using God’s word to help a family move past any barriers while dispensing hope.
While your local church may provide counseling services, a licensed therapist is trained to assist the whole person; from serious mental health conditions to relationship issues.
Using a Christian counselor may feel less intimidating than meeting with a secular counselor as the family can rest in the knowledge that their faith is the foundation for hope, healing, and redemption. Your family may feel they can open up about their struggles with each other with another believer who promises to listen.
Jesus taught that through Him we could change our behaviors, our speech, and our hearts. These truths are applied to your family’s specific issue. Family counseling sessions typically last about an hour. To see the full benefit of behavioral change, you may need to attend at least 12 sessions.
However, family counseling is not meant to be a long-term solution. The therapy is goal specific. The family and individual members will create goals and work on a plan to implement a new behavior or change. In the next session, the family will report back on the results from their “homework.”
The Bible tells us to seek the advice of counselors (Proverbs 15:22) and a faith-based therapist can help point you back to the source – Jesus Christ. When faced with a family crisis, relying on God and seeking wisdom should be of utmost priority. As stated in the book of Joshua, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15).
Who should attend the counseling sessions?
The people who attend the family counseling sessions will most likely be your immediate family and whoever else lives in your household and is affected by other family member’s behavior. This is based on the issues at hand, however. If the subject is abuse or trauma, the therapist in charge of the session may limit who can attend.
Certain topics may upset little children and shouldn’t be discussed within their hearing. The therapist may ask that the little ones sit out on the next session while the family works through a particular topic.
Other people outside of the immediate family may be invited to attend if they are somehow connected to the issues. For example, well-meaning grandparents may continuously override the parents’ wishes. This may cause chaos in the home as the children perceive the parents to lack authority. The grandparents may attend a few sessions to work with the parents in assuming the appropriate roles.
The therapist is ultimately in charge of the sessions and will remind the attendees not to speak over one another. Sometimes a session can become heated, especially when a sensitive topic is addressed. The therapist may wait as the attendees work through their problems before stepping in. Allow the therapist to take control of the situation if needed.
Finding the right family therapist for your family.
There are several ways you can find a family therapist. Check with your primary care physician for any referrals from counselors they trust. In your Christian circles, ask for referrals from family and friends for Christian family counseling centers. You don’t need to commit to a therapist right away. Do your research to find out if they are licensed and highly recommended. You can also check out reviews online.
You may be able to check with other well-known Christian counseling centers and ask them for referrals for therapists in your area. Many maintain a directory for this purpose. Pray about finding a good family therapist who will benefit your family and point you in the right direction.
Once you’ve located a Christian therapist, don’t be afraid to interview them. They should believe in the Word of God and use the Scripture in their counseling practices. They should believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that through his death and resurrection, believers have a new life.
Don’t hold back when choosing a therapist for your family – you want to start your relationship with honesty. Some centers keep testimonials from previous clients on file. Ask to review these to get a feel for the type of service provided.
Choose well and approach Christian family counseling with an open mind. You want the combination of Biblical truth and mental health care knowledge to help your family through a tough season. Continue to ask God for His help and rely on the people He sends your way. We must trust that He has our families planted firmly in His hand.
“Sanctuary”, Courtesy of Jordan Graff, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Coffee and Conversation”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Jeremiah 15”, Courtesy of Rod Long, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Library”, Courtesy of Sr. Jano Ferlic, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE
The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this article are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please contact one of our counselors for further information.