what to expect in family therapy
Family Therapy

What to Expect in Family Therapy

Debunking Four Myths So You Know What to Expect in Family Therapy

Let’s face it, family therapy is an unknown entity for most people! It is scary to lean into something that feels so unknown. Even some therapists are afraid of providing family therapy. And not every therapist is trained to do so. We are about to debunk the 4 biggest myths about family therapy so you know what to expect when you begin family therapy with us at Montgomery County Counseling Center.

Myth #1: Family therapy will change your kid

The role of a family therapist is to help everyone equally. The relationship is the client. This means the family therapist will not take sides by trying to change the one person with the most visible problems. Rather, they will bring to light how the entire family dynamic makes those visible problems worse. Each person is held equally accountable to  their role in the pattern. And each person is asked to participate in change. That means you should come prepared to bring their vulnerability and deep breathing to ease yourself through feelings of defensiveness.

Myth #2: Family therapy will just blame the parents

Like we just said, the relationship is the client. That means we are also not here to judge or blame parents. We know parents are doing the best they can with the knowledge they have. We simply aim to increase that knowledge and awareness so that you can improve moving forward. Our philosophy is that whether or not parents are a part of the problem, parents are DEFINITELY part of the solution.

Myth #3:  Family therapists only teach active listening

Active listening is definitely one part of family therapy. But really that is only the beginning. It doesn’t matter how “hokey” active listening feels, your family therapist cannot dig into deeper issues until everyone in the room has these listening skills. Otherwise we will just spend our time running conflict interference. You don’t need to pay us to do the same thing you do at home! So The sooner you practice active listening during sessions, the sooner your family can progress in family therapy to more complicated layers of dynamics. So yes, you will learn active listening, But no, that is not the only intervention!

Myth #4: The whole family must be present for family therapy

Not all family members must be present for family therapy. Depending on the case, family therapy may be more appropriate in smaller groups within the family. It may be inappropriate to bring siblings into problems that do not concern them. Your therapist may suggest to start without siblings until appropriate boundaries are established and then bring them in later.

Also, sometimes when there is an unstable connection between two family members, a third persons’ presence serves to mitigate, or spread out the tension. This prevents the two people in conflict from actually working out their issues. We call this homeostasis triangulation. If that is part of what is maintaining an unhealthy status quo, your therapist may suggest excusing that third party to get to the underlying dynamic. A well-trained family therapist will assess who is most important to be present and may suggest bringing in new people or excusing people throughout the process.

With these myths debunked, hopefully family therapy feels less scary. You can also learn more about MCCC’s specific approach to family therapy here. If you are ready to get started, it is as simple as sending us a message!

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About The Author

Laura Goldstein, family therapist and DBT expert

Laura Goldstein, LCMFT is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist in Rockville Maryland and founder of Montgomery County Counseling Center, LLC. Laura obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA. She then went on to earn her Master’s degree in Family Therapy from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. Laura became intensively trained in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) through Behavioral Tech Linehan Institute in 2015. She is also Level 1 Trained in Gottman Couples Therapy. After working in both substance use and failure to launch IOP programs, Laura now works in her private practice alongside her excellent associates! Montgomery County Counseling Center serves individuals, families, parents, and couples who are struggling with intense emotions, fraught relationships, and maladaptive coping behaviors.

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