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When do we look for Family Therapy?

We have been offering family therapy for a while now, and we realize people have asked similar questions about family therapy. We share our experiences here and hope you find this useful.

When is the time when we (I) need Family Therapy?

Imagine your family situation is at the stage of: ⁃ You know you clearly cannot stand being with each other in the same space – either someone is too agitated or another person is nowhere to be seen ⁃ You know the problem has occurred for years and there is no way that there is any change in it… ⁃ You come to the point that you are a family and you all need to improve the relationship, but different people are…just very different

– You all deeply care for each other, but communication just does not work ⁃ Some are motivated to change; some said they want the change but never do any work

The role of a therapist/psychologist in family therapy is crucial, particularly at the beginning stage of work. Imagine these situations :

⁃ Family members with ruptured relationship come together after such a long time; ⁃ Awkward!!! These moments occur a lot as people don’t know how to talk to each other; – Communication is impossible. One never gets the other. You feel you are on parallel processes and never meet on the same page ⁃ People meet with the fear of conflict, so things can never be brought up; or ⁃ Conflicts do happen in the sessions and there is no control over it.

This is when you wish you could have someone being with you to address the relationship problem in an open space…

How does Family therapy work? Let us break this concept down into a more readable way. In family therapy we offer, we focus on two things: relationship and communication.

Our providing family therapy aims at two processes of work: 1) insight building and 2) communication strengthening work.

We work with you to enhance your insight into your relationship and how problems emerge in the relationship. You also learn about the role of communication which often reinforces relationship problems.

Our strengthening work targets at rebuilding relationship and communication. We work together to channel your gained insight into practice.

You need Culturally sensitive Family Therapy

Culturally sensitive Family Therapy is highly regarded in Corimus. Here we don’t just say culture from the ‘ethnic’ background. We refer this to all social categories – gender, class, religion, sexuality, age, etc.

One key factor people may not be aware of which makes family therapy work, is the consideration of socio-cultural diversity in the family circle. Many clients come to us because of their inevitable social and cultural differences.

Yes diversity occurs in the family group! You may find your upbringing experiences different from your son or daughter, or your parents/grandparents.

A well known example is cultural diversity; this is when a family has a migrant background, or bicultural even multicultural backgrounds. People from culturally diverse backgrounds can relate to these challenges:

  1. Language barriers – older group speaks non-English as the first language, the younger group speaks English than the speaking language at home

  2. Different educational experiences and levels of academic achievements;

  3. Class difference in between (parents born from the working class; children born in a middle class background);

  4. Family from non-white British backgrounds, or in a mixed backgrounds, whereas the second generation has to navigate between different cultures when growing up

You may hear these words come up quite commonly in a family problem: Language barrier, cultural clash with parents, first migrant generation versus second generation, family trauma due to non-British family bringing, ‘we don’t talk about emotions’, ‘different political agenda – we have nothing to talk about’…

You may want to ensure that the working therapist/psychologist can have a good understanding of the complexity of socio-cultural diversity in the family. It is important that the psychologist can respect all sides but also ensures to bring more equality into the space, such that conversation or therapeutic direction does not go to a particular side.

It is also completely fine you request that the therapist/psychologist is bilingual, or can speak fluent English + non-English languages, such that he/she could help clarify miscommunication in the sessions.

Why is having a psychologist important? At first glance, the psychologist may look like a mediator amongst the family group. He/she helps the family to focus on communicating the problem out (imagine some can go off on a tangent), and meanwhile ensure everyone can bring the own perspective into the same space.

You will expect more positive communication brought across the individuals. People do find they become more hopeful towards building a positive relationship with each other.

With us, you work towards understanding the psychological concepts of relationship and communication in your own family circle. You don’t just know what the problem is, but also what it means in a clear and psychological way, and how it occurs in your daily situations.

The psychologist takes a sensible approach to support the group to bypass the common thinking ‘he/she’s wrong’/’the problem is because he/she doesn’t do enough’, to seeing the bigger picture –

for example, how does the individual emotional process (e.g. anxiety and stress) has caused impact on the appearance (he/she has a mini break down and the face appears blank), and then it is perceived by the other family members as (he/she is not doing the work, he/she is lazy). Many people leave each session feeling they gain more knowledge and understanding: ‘now i know why…’

Strengthening work done alone needs effort, and it takes time. When people start discussing about the problem together, they recognize they are not dealing with the struggles alone anymore and no longer feel isolate from one another. Hope occurs across the family group. With your working psychologist, you realize that communication can be possible. You can feel more trustful and hopeful.

How do we (I) ensure the working psychologist/therapist is good? You will want to feel confident that the psychologist you work with has good experiences, not just because he/she has knowledge, but also importantly you can ensure you feel safe and comfortable to carry out ‘real talk’ with your family members.

In therapy, you will want to convey strong emotions – sorrows, anger and helplessness… You will bring out conflicts and negativity and with the psychologist in the room, you don’t have to worry this leaves irreversible damage to your relationship.

It is not easy for anyone to identify the best support, or know the professional you speak to is the ‘right one’. It is completely ok for you to ask questions and certainly look for an opportunity to speak to the practitioner yourself.

When you make an enquiry with us, we do welcome you to make a list about some things you wish to clarify. Often in a short conversation, you would know whether the professional may fit with you or your designated referring family group. Don’t hesitate to ask to have a brief discussion.

Clarifying questions, enquiry call, follow up emails – all these little steps do help you decide whether you would decide on starting therapy and book an initial session. (Corimus offers a free 15-20 minutes enquiry telephone call)

What do I do if I do want to take part in family therapy? For family therapy to really work, yours and all your other family members’ commitment is the key. Before anything starts, our psychologist carries out an assessment with you all, together or separately, to gain an understanding of different perspectives across different participating individuals.

From there, we form a professional recommendation whether family therapy is suitable as the best therapy approach for you. We deliver concrete feedback to you about the next steps, such as therapy direction, goals setting and recommendations of other support to take place. We also provide you with insight into an estimated length of sessions, or whether alternative 1:1 support is more suitable (and why).

Why is someone not suitable for family therapy sometimes? Not everyone would be able to take part in family therapy. This could be due to some valid reasons. This is why having a good professional to carry out a good assessment for you is crucial. You do not end up feeling you set up things for fail, or you always have doubt in therapy and leave the sessions feeling deflated.

Here we share about some common reasons we have identified in our previous experiences with some families: ⁃ Individual need outweighs group change: this means therapy could be more effective when one individual fulfills his/her own needs first, before mobilizing family therapy to articulate group based changes ⁃ Some members are not ready. This is definitely not a criticism. In fact doing therapy is hard! It requires commitment and the purpose about requiring therapy is that you want the right support and answer the question, ‘what should i do?’ Therefore it is important you have a good professional to identify the right support for you, including non-therapy options. ⁃ Some members are reluctant to take part. This does cause challenge. Afterall change needs to come from participating members themselves. You could get support from us to help you, the family as a whole, to look at and even challenge someone’s de-motivation. This at times is why we recommend 1:1 therapy such that some members could use a separate and safe space to discuss freely.

Ending Remarks For those who are reading this and thinking about getting support for your family, we pass warm regards to you for your continued support seeking. The work of looking for support is not easy and we appreciate you do the best for you yourself and your family.

Keep trying! There is always a way towards hope and change.


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