Different family structures exist, and within those are different family dynamics, good and bad. Internal and external factors can disrupt family relationships, causing hardship, misunderstanding, and disconnection.

When things become unstable within the family, it’s natural to want to keep your challenges private. You may hesitate to go to family therapy for several reasons: you worry that bringing someone into your life may make the issue bigger, you don’t want to shine a spotlight on someone you love, or you may even fear getting blamed for your family’s failures. However, any step to improve communication within your family is proof of your commitment to work through your problems. And investing in family therapy demonstrates your intent to build stronger relationships that will help you and your family live happier and healthier lives.

When to seek help

Families suffering from dysfunction experience symptoms that serve as warning signs that it’s time to seek professional family therapy. Here are some situations to pay attention to if you feel your family may need help:

Problematic behavior. Have you noticed sudden changes in behavior in a family member, such as difficulty functioning or withdrawing socially? These may be signs of deeper emotional issues. Other extreme emotional reactions to look out for include excessive anger and sadness and signs of physical or verbal violence or abuse.

Traumatic events. Everyone deals with trauma differently. How you react may differ from your young child or a partner. The healthiest way to cope after a traumatic event is to open the lines of communication so that everyone in the family receives emotional support, whether they admit they need it or not.

Personal conflicts. Siblings fight. A parent may fight with their child. Parents may fight with one another. Ultimately, these conflicts occurring between two or more people in the family can affect the entire family, causing stress and toxic emotions and reactions.

Death or loss. As with trauma, people deal with death and loss differently. One may have a highly emotional reaction, while another will withdraw. Family therapy validates everyone’s reactions –  allowing everyone to work through their emotions together –  so they know they don’t need to grieve alone.

Divorce and co-parenting. For some kids, divorcing parents can be traumatic,  affecting their self-esteem and well-being. Through family therapy, co-parents can help their child cope with the divorce and prove that while the family dynamic has changed, there is still positive support and shared commitment to their child’s best interests.

Blended family or step-parenting challenges. Children of blended families sometimes won’t immediately accept their step-siblings or step-parent. There also could be disruption in the home due to different parenting styles and new routines. Family therapy can help with the transition, helping families communicate and achieve a unique and positive family structure and dynamic.

Substance abuse and recovery. A supportive family environment can play a positive role in the treatment and recovery process. Family therapy also helps support family members who may feel emotionally challenged by caregiving for a loved one with a history of substance abuse. Through family counseling, the family can learn how to improve family interactions, identify underlying problems, and make better decisions that lead to a healthier home environment.

Communicare provides mental health services, including screening, assessment, counseling, and/or crisis intervention to children and youth with emotional and behavioral problems, along with their families. For more information, visit our website www.communicarems.org/ or contact us at 662-234-7521.