professional 'family therapy' - any experiences?

c1atsite

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Anyone ever tried family therapy? Did it help a little or alot? It's tough even needing to ask this but I know most TCS members say reaching out is a good thing. Thank you
 

ritz

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Thank you for asking this question.  I hope personal problems/mental illness-disease becomes less stigmatized.

I was in family therapy as an adult  with my mother, with whom I had the most issues.  I didn't ask my father; I had settled my issues with him internally, and he did not trust therapists (ranked them right up there with politicians).  I feel my mother said what she thought she *should* say, what the therapist/me wanted her to say, not what she truly believed.  It didn't help our relationship; however, it did help my therapist understand much better what the family dynamics were like growing up.  My therapist's opinion of my mother worsened the longer we were in therapy.

Later I had family therapy with my twin sister; it helped us somewhat.  My therapist had seen my twin sister individually at a different time, and knew some of her issues.  Time (and additional individual therapy on my part) has improved our relationship, or, at least, my understanding of my sister.

Globally speaking, depends on the family members involved.  If you're talking about adults/teenagers (versus all adults):  is the teenager willing (more or less) to see a counselor individually?  It may make the teenager more receptive to family therapy.  In any case, I would 'make' the teenager attend family therapy together (though recommend the parents go together initially to the therapist).  If nothing else, the teen can listen.

If on the other hand you're talking about adult/adult:  I think it is more important that BOTH/all individuals want to participate.  You all can have different goals/issues; it is sharing them in one room, so everyone hears at the same time what the other person is saying, that is important.

And to some degree efficacy of therapy depends on the therapist.  The therapist MUST be skilled in cutting through the BS (or, in more polite terms, denial, deflection, falsely placed blame/guilt).  This insight (on the part of the therapist/family) does not happen overnight; it can take months.

If there is an addiction issue, I highly recommend AL-Anon. It is not just for people dealing with a loved one who has an ALCOHOL problem; it is for anyone whose loved one has a problem with any kind of substance abuse.  And, don't be fooled:  'substance' can include sex, food, prescription drugs, internet, etc.  In the same way, if no family member will go to family therapy with you, then (1) go alone and/or (2) ask your therapist if she knows of any group therapy sessions.  There is more give and take (cross-talk) in group therapy than there is in Al-Anon.

Good luck, and feel free to PM if you're more comfortable doing so.

-
 

msbedelia

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I think family therapy can be helpful depending on family members involved. My mom used it to spew her own insecurities and really took it over. I think she needed individual sessions but wasn't willing to take them. It didn't help as much as I would have liked, but I think it did actually help my parents interact with me in a way that wasn't so horrible, lol.

In general, I do think well of it and recommend it.
 

denice

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I've never had family therapy but I have been in individual therapy and it can be beneficial.  People in therapy have to be willing to be honest and willing to look at and admit their own flaws.  It mainly gives people insight so they can come up with more constructive ways to live their life.
 

dejolane

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I have been to a Bipolar group for 2 years long ago and then with a counselor for 2 years. But as much as I argue with my husband I'm thinking a marriage counselor is in order cause we have been married 35 years now.
 
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betsygee

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I think family therapy can be helpful depending on family members involved. My mom used it to spew her own insecurities and really took it over. I think she needed individual sessions but wasn't willing to take them. It didn't help as much as I would have liked, but I think it did actually help my parents interact with me in a way that wasn't so horrible, lol.

In general, I do think well of it and recommend it.
Ditto my experience except substitute "stepdaughter" for "mother".  It did help hubby and I learn some techniques for dealing with her, and learn how to work together instead of allowing her to push buttons.  He and I got in a lot fewer arguments, at least!  

It can't hurt to try.  
 

libby74

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My husband, our then 11 year old daughter, and I went to family therapy together.  We adopted her as a 4 year old, and our case-worker was on3 of the therapists.  Because she "only" had a BS degree, she was joined by a PhD, who made us her special little project.  (can you tell that I didn't care for her at all?)  Our daughter simply did not know how to tell the truth about anything, and to this day (13 years later) she still doesn't.  We role-played, we talked, we played games, etc.  In the end, after the PhD. made a fool of herself at one session (because our daughter was "such a pretty little thing, and she just loved her!") her advice came down to this:  assume she's lying until she proves otherwise.  Really?  That's the great advice?

While I know that family therapy can be of the utmost help in some situations, I think you have to make sure you've  got the right therapist.  We obviously didn't.  I sincerely hope you have better luck than we did.
 

betsygee

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My husband, our then 11 year old daughter, and I went to family therapy together.  We adopted her as a 4 year old, and our case-worker was on3 of the therapists.  Because she "only" had a BS degree, she was joined by a PhD, who made us her special little project.  (can you tell that I didn't care for her at all?)  Our daughter simply did not know how to tell the truth about anything, and to this day (13 years later) she still doesn't.  We role-played, we talked, we played games, etc.  In the end, after the PhD. made a fool of herself at one session (because our daughter was "such a pretty little thing, and she just loved her!") her advice came down to this:  assume she's lying until she proves otherwise.  Really?  That's the great advice?

While I know that family therapy can be of the utmost help in some situations, I think you have to make sure you've  got the right therapist.  We obviously didn't.  I sincerely hope you have better luck than we did.
We had a similar problem, Libby.  Stepdaughter was and still is, at almost age 40, incapable of telling the truth.  She pulled the wool over more than one therapist's eyes--we tried a few. But it was beneficial in helping hubby and I learn to work together as a team, so in our situation it was worth it for that aspect.
 

franksmom

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I think it might be helpful for adults, but I think you have to be careful with kids. My parents brought me to their marriage councilor when I was about 14 which was pretty traumatic for me as I was told pretty inappropriate things by the therapist. Kids really should not be involved with their parents relationship problems.
 

ritz

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@Franksmom:  agree 100% about the inappropriateness--it was totally inappropriate for the marriage counselor to have you present during your parent's session.

May have been helpful for a marriage counselor to talk one-on-one with you and get your side of the story without your parents present--not this one perhaps, but a more professional, knowledgeable one.

As is clear from everyone's post:  you need to pick your counselor/therapist carefully.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with interviewing counselors for a job; you're the employer, they are the employee.  You want to make sure they are qualified for the job.
 

furmonster mom

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Hmmmm....

As a teenager, my mom and I went to counseling.  It was through our church, and frankly, it did not go well. 

My mom is really not the nurturing type, more disciplinarian.  It's the way she was raised, and her tactics with me were ratcheted up a bit.  When we were in session, the therapist believed every word (lie) that my mom spewed at her, and made me feel like I was to blame for everything and deserved the punishments (when I knew in my heart it was wrong).

The problem was, my mom knew she was wrong, but rather than admit it in front of me, she'd color things so she looked like the one "at her wit's end".  I think that is a big trap with family counseling or therapy.  There are very deeply ingrained behaviors and emotions at stake, and nobody wants to be the one to 'fess up in front of everyone else, lest they look weak. 

I believe individual sessions are a better avenue.  With individual sessions, the therapist can address the problem(s) from each individual's angle.  The individual is also freed from the pressures of being scrutinized/criticized by other members of the family, and can really examine their own behaviors in a more truthful way.  Because ultimately, nothing will change in the group dynamic until the individuals of the group determine to change within themselves.

As it turns out, my solution was actually to get out of my mother's house and live with my grandparents for the rest of my high school years.  I stayed with dad for a couple years of college, and was essentially on my own by the time I was 19. 

A few years after I graduated from college, my mom and I had a good discussion.  We had distance and time to reflect over the years.  I was very honest with her, and she admitted that she wished she had handled things between us differently.  I accept that there are parts of me that are very much like her, it's unavoidable really.  So for me to continue to be angry with her just meant that I was also angry with myself.  That's just a vicious circle, and I wanted to break that.  So I quit being angry with her, and just accepted that she is who she is; personality and behavior quirks notwithstanding. 
 
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msbedelia

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Furmonster Mom-

I think the best family counselors these days know that the children and adolescents are rarely at fault / often unfairly maligned, and look much more at what the adults are doing to contribute to whatever is going on with the kids. (That being said, there aren't enough "best" or even really good therapists out there.) And even knowing that, they may be little they can do, because they cannot get anywhere by alienating the adult.

My family therapist- who I guess I was dissatisfied with in many ways- certainly knew that my mom was a huge raging problem, though she never said anything or did anything that indicated that. She was just smart enough that she should have known and tried her best (to no avail) to rope her in.

I do think family therapy is more effective when people are having individual sessions to make changes. However, it is useful to keep in mind an individual therapist's job is essentially to be on the individual's "side"; a family therapist's is really to be on no one's side, lol. Because of the skewed picture an individual therapist gets- even more skewed than the family therapist- I think it carries a strong risk of not addressing the problems that contribute to the family dynamics. It's certainly better than nothing, and I think family therapy is more effective when paired with individual therapy, but I wouldn't recommend it as a substitute necessarily.

But then, the challenge is getting a good therapist. A bad one can do so much damage. It's a shame.
 

furmonster mom

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I do think family therapy is more effective when people are having individual sessions to make changes. ...I think family therapy is more effective when paired with individual therapy, but I wouldn't recommend it as a substitute necessarily.

But then, the challenge is getting a good therapist. A bad one can do so much damage. It's a shame.
I can see how pairing individual with group could be beneficial.  But like you say, find a GOOD therapist, and that by itself can be a challenge.
 
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c1atsite

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Yes, especially when u consider the work falls on the shoulders of the family members, not the therapist. Or maybe they want your family to stay messed up for more sessions more pay
 

ritz

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And, it's not like you can go on Craig's List or read Consumer's Report or even ask your friends for a recommendation.  Your primary care physician might know of good ones.
 

sugarsandz

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It's important to find someone who doesn't take sides, therapists can make things worse if they are pitting people against each other. I have been to several therapists over the years and in the end I helped myself. Having said that, it's better to try therapy and see if it is right for you and your family.
 
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