Answers to all your Questions when Considering a Family Counsellor

The concept of ‘family’ has many different connotations attached to it. Depending on who you talk to, family could mean anything from the people you are related to by blood, or people you grew up with in the same household, to a group of people who care about and care for each other regardless of biological make up.

Either way, however you want to think about family and what it means to you, each one of us is part of a wider network or ‘system’ and how we interact with one another is extremely important. The ultimate goal should be to create an environment in which everyone in the system supports one another. Often, the only way to achieve this is through seeking help with learning how to understand one another better.

This is where family therapy can prove to be a useful tool.

What is family therapy?

Family therapy is a type of psychotherapy that seeks to promote better relationships and improved understanding between members within a family unit. Oftentimes this will occur with all members of the family present, but in some instances, where the reason for the meeting is person-specific, therapy may occur with one or more members of the family absent. 

During family therapy, the family therapist will remain neutral – not taking sides, blaming, or providing one-size-fits-all solutions – but rather seeking to build on existing strengths of the individuals, couples and families that they meet from an objective standpoint.

Some of the main objectives of family therapy are:

  • To help promote better relationships and understanding within a family
  • To help the family to reflect on better ways of communicating with each other
  • To assist with conflict resolution, whether in general or incident-specific i.e. divorce, death, sudden changes within the family etc.
  • To address the needs of the family when one member is suffering i.e. someone in the family is struggling with poor mental health

What are the main types of family therapy?

The type of family therapy approach one should consider depends on each family’s unique reasons for seeking help. Below are five common approaches that family therapists make use of:

Functional family therapy

Therapy that helps families learn strategies for dealing with a young child or adolescent’s complex emotional or behavioral problems.

Multisystemic therapy

Therapy that focuses on broader issues with a child’s behavior outside the home environment, such as in schools or neighborhoods.


Therapy that examines and seeks to understand interactions across generations, such as between parents and children.

Brief strategic family therapy

A time-limited therapy (typically 12-16 sessions) that aims to change the pattern of interaction between family members.

Structural therapy

Therapy that manages issues that come up as a result of the family structure. The aim is to achieve a functioning and balanced family hierarchy.

What can family counsellors help with?

According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists, family therapists provide the following services:

  • Diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional conditions
  • Treatment planning
  • Psychotherapy for individuals, couples and children
  • Couple, group, and family therapy

How could my family benefit from a family therapist?

As with any form of therapy, a family therapist provides a safe and open space for honest communication to flow through. 

In general, a therapist as a neutral third party is able to act as a moderator and facilitator of proactive conversation between family members. This type of structure gives each family member involved in the session the opportunity to speak comfortably and express their concerns. This is a golden opportunity for each member to learn how best to live with one another, to communicate effectively, and to understand one another’s triggers and responses.

For children in particular, a safe forum-type format helps them to feel comfortable enough to have discussions that they may not feel they can enter into in the home environment. In addition, the therapist is able to ask children the right questions to get them to start working through their thoughts and emotions. This is hugely beneficial for parents of children who are struggling with complex emotional or behavioral problems, to better understand and support their children.

The family counseller essentially teaches family members new and more positive ways to communicate to replace old, negative communication patterns.

Where to look for family relationship counselling services?

Family counselling is typically a relatively short process, with families often benefiting from 4-5 sessions. Even though there are generally fewer sessions, it is important that the family finds a therapist that all of the members feel comfortable with. Therapy is a challenging process already, so choosing the right person and environment is essential. 

COCA Psychotherapy counselling in Kitchener has a team of dynamic psychotherapists who specialize in Couples Counselling, Depression Counselling, Family Counselling, and both Group and Individual Counselling. Online counselling therapy has also proven to be a highly sought-after option for families. With COCA, there is also the option of Virtual Counselling throughout Ontario, Newfoundland & Labrador, and Nova Scotia.Feel free to contact us here to book an appointment or give us a call on 226-336-5787 for a free consultation over the phone.

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