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In a family counseling session, we work with you as a family on how to communicate within the family and deal with problems which arise.

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The family problems are central in family counseling. We investigate how the family members react to each other and how the problems are caused and maintained. Family counseling is a form of systemic therapy that is not about one person, but about the interaction of all the people of that system. The interactions between the family members are scrutinized and form the basis for change.

System and interaction

By looking at the entire “system” that makes up the family, we explore for destructive or non-functional patterns of interaction. In the way people interact, patterns in behaviour emerge. Sometimes these patterns help the family, but sometimes they don’t.

There are circumstances that may disrupt existing patterns within the family such as:

  • serious illness or death within the family or in people close to them
  • problems of a family member (with himself or herself or at school or work)
  • partner relationship problems
  • birth
  • puberty
  • children leaving home
  • circumstances
  • our nature
  • Because of what we saw our parents do.

Sometimes the family develops new patterns with each other that help; sometimes they fail and non-helpful patterns emerge. Family therapy focuses on the relationships within the family. The main focus is on the family’s strengths. Therapy looks for opportunities to reduce less helpful ways of interacting by utilizing and expanding the strengths and opportunities within the family. It explores ways to help support and understand each other again and to have moments of fun together again.

Besides the well-known father-mother-child(ren)-family, other family forms exist: single-parent families, families with a plus mother or plus father, compound families, LGBT parents with one or more children.

In a family counseling session, we work with you as a family on how to communicate within the family and deal with problems that arise.

We often find in couples therapy that it is quite an art for young parents to handle their parenting well. The birth of a child brings more changes than many people realize beforehand. Not only practically, but also emotionally. Broken nights, problems with breastfeeding, the mother’s feeling of being alone or the father’s feeling of suddenly being an outsider (sometimes vice versa), the feeling of not getting around to each other, uncertainty and fears about the new responsibilities: everything takes energy.

Unfortunately, a baby is far from always providing the “on the pink cloud” feeling that you may have expected and at least hoped for.

Even in later phases, parenthood can cause problems: differences of opinion about parenting; busy children that you, as a parent, can’t really cope with when you get out of work; arranging babysitting when they are sick and can’t go to daycare; suddenly having your parents around the house a lot (you wouldn’t know how to manage without them, but it also requires a new way of dealing with each other…), in short, lots of issues in which you can get stuck and where professional support can be useful. Experience shows: the sooner you seek help, the less you will fall into destructive behaviour patterns s a couple or a family.

Being plus mother or plus father is not easy: you do not want to take the place of the absent father or mother, and at the same time, you and your partner are the parents of the children and do have parenting responsibilities. How do you deal with that a s a couple? How do you build your own relationship with the children? How do you guard your own boundaries and not just start caring too much for the others because you want so badly to be that good mother or father? What is the proper distance, where is it okay to interfere and where not to interfere? How do you relate to your partner when he/she sides with the children? How do you deal with any guilt of not being able to offer the children a “normal” family? (By the way: what is “normal” these days?)

Together we look at your situation, learn to discuss sensitive issues with your partner, and together you come to an approach.

With compound families, getting along with all the people involved is quite an art.

How do you deal with both exes? How are parenting consultations going, both between you and the exes and also between yourselves? How will your new partner interact with your children? And what do the children think of the new partner? How do you deal with your loyalty to your children on the one hand and your new partner on the other? Where you were overjoyed with your new relationship, you don’t get the time to first get used to living together with each other: you immediately form a family for several days of the week, and sometimes quite a large family!

Many LGBT couples today also choose to have children or adopt. Without many more examples, they seek their way: how to deal with the child’s father(s) and respective mother(s)? How do you divide the time the child spends with one and the other? How do you coordinate parenting? Where do you celebrate birthdays? How do you keep the child from being incredibly spoiled with sometimes as many as 4 parents and 8 grandparents and all the accompanying uncles and aunts, friends and girlfriends? As a male family, how do you guard against giving too much freedom, and as a female family, how do you guard against always being too close? (The reverse also occurs as a reaction). Numerous questions you can get stuck in together. Family therapy can help you/you find your way.

Family therapy can also help when it comes to adult children’s problems with their parents. In this safe setting, perhaps now those topics can come up that you have wanted to discuss with your parents for a long time. Because no matter how old you are, at any point in your life those old childhood experiences can resurface and painfully demand your attention. It is not necessary to do the processing together with (one of) your parents. But if they themselves are open to it, it can be very enlightening and help you with that processing. Even from the parents’ perspective, now that the child is an adult, the relationship may not become what you hope or expect.

In family therapy, we can look at what everyone’s needs are and how you can find a form to go with them that is appropriate for both of you.

For people thinking about starting a family, – new or compound or any form – we offer preventive family coaching. We will discuss the important issues you will encounter and help you prepare for them. We explore with you how you communicate and solve problems.