• Alexa von Oertzen, LMFT

How Can I Get My Family To Participate In And Benefit From Family Counseling?



You have wanted to sit down with your family for some time, because many things have been left unsaid. Consequently, the tension has been building, and so has the hurt. Maybe the issue is with your siblings or perhaps it’s a rift with your parents. At the time, it might have seemed better to let it go and move on to adulthood, but the lack of communication left everyone feeling hostile, resentful, and defensive.


Certain boundaries, behaviors, and coping skills utilized in your family of origin might not have been the healthiest. Now you notice that you are falling back on those behaviors with your new relationships. You try to do better with your partner, but sometimes you get triggered by an action that takes you back to when you were 15 years old and couldn’t advocate for yourself. That is when you might want to consider picking up the phone and trying to rally your family to come together for some much-needed communication and closure.


You think to yourself, “How do I get the communication going? Who’s most at fault? Who can I rely on, from my family, to express the interest in getting everyone in a room to talk about what we wish we had resolved years ago?


As relationship experts say, it is not about who is at fault; it is about the patterns of negative communication and behaviors that people create and get stuck in.


Below are good signs it's time to work on your family relationships:

  • A vital member of the family is shut down and detached.

  • You can’t trust some of your family members.

  • You feel you are walking on eggshells around certain members of your family.

  • One of your family members is exhibiting risky behaviors or has an addiction.

  • A traumatic event affected the whole family.

  • Young adults are still at their parent’s home and show no signs of autonomy.

  • Parents used their kids to hurt their ex-spouses.

  • Parents and their (minor or adult) kids do not understand or accept each other’s views.

  • Unhealthy family alliances or preferences for specific people hurt the other family members.

  • There is little love, empathy, or support evidenced in the family.

Suppose you know you fall into one of these scenarios. In that case, it is essential to think of the whole family, how it has been operating, what roles each member has played, and who would be the best ally to help get your family interested in engaging in respectful mediated talks.


How can you get family members to come together?


You can start by contacting your closest family member(s) and highlight the positive outcomes possible for each person, such as: how things would be different, how each person would gain stronger relationships, better support, and happier moods.


Aligning your goals is another great way to get your family to try therapy. If there is one thing each family member agrees on, as a positive outcome, then that is the angle to be taken. For example, learning better communication skills, fixing behavioral problems, improving empathy, adjusting boundaries, or reducing conflict, are good motivators for families to come together.


If none of the above methods work, invite members to support you as additional historians to ensure that past events are correct (non-biased). This way, you can more easily dissolve misunderstandings between you and the person you are working with towards conflict resolution. In addition, the extra family members can offer good points, serve as support, or end up wanting to resolve their issues with you or the other family member in the room.


What are the positive outcomes of family therapy?


What I find in my therapy sessions is that when the whole family comes together, each member benefits from hearing how and why they have been valuable in their family. They hear positive feedback that they would rarely hear without prompting from a professional. They also have the opportunity to voice their opinions and share their emotions without fearing retaliation. The therapist can ensure each member has a voice, is validated, and has their viewpoint translated so that the whole family can understand.


Another crucial cognitive change for the family is to learn that there are no "at fault" or "problem" members. They realize that the other person's behavior had a reason based on that person's original understanding. Family members learn to utilize 'I- statements' to communicate their problems, take away blame, encourage sharing feelings, and focus on solutions.

If you would like to gain some of these benefits and help create a healthy functioning family, consider taking some time and investing in family sessions. A family therapist can help you as an individual to recognize your worth and also help you connect better with your family of origin as well as your new relationships. You only have one family - Make it count


Take the first step today and call me for a 15-minute complimentary consultation at 954-391-5305 if you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment for family counseling in Coral Springs or Fort Lauderdale, Florida. For more information about my approach to counseling, click here.


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