While all of us experience love for our family members, at times they do things that anger us, make us feel misunderstood, or abandon us emotionally. This is normal and not unusual, but when these incidents become patterned and repetitious, we may have a bigger relationship problem on our hands. If this problem is not addressed, it can fester like an open wound, worsening over time and even causing the home environment to feel toxic and something to be avoided. Distance and resentment in relationships grows when the real issues are not explicitly addressed and empathy is experienced for all sides of an argument. This is one of the roles of the therapist in family counselling.
The first step toward family counselling is to speak to a therapist by phone, discuss the issues briefly, and make a time to meet. The first meeting often involves all of the family members involved in the conflict, usually the parent or parents, and a child or children. The therapy room is designated as a safe space for all members to speak, feel heard, and have their thoughts and feelings translated through the therapist to the other family members. Turns are taken and the rule of not interrupting or speaking over others is quickly established. This helps to avoid escalation. On any given issue there are at least three sides to the story: there are the perspectives of each member and there is the “truth.” Naturally both family members may be convinced that their version of the story is the truth, but this is rarely true, since it may be impossible to detach from one’s subjective reality in order to know objective truth. There is no truth, just perception. Therefore, one of the family counsellor’s roles is to honour the validity contained in each perspective and find a way to communicate this to the others in order to create empathy for all perspectives. Ultimately, this empathy and validation is much more important that finding out the truth, who is right or wrong, or who wins or loses an argument. Once someone begins to feel that the other person cares and understands how they feel, resentments begin to shrink and love grows. This is the first step to creating consistent harmony and understanding in family counselling.
For more information, or to book an appointment, please visit www.therapyintoronto.com or call 416.985.2634.