Dealing with family issues is painful enough when it’s within the family and bringing in an outside therapist can feel even more intimidating. When looking for a family counselor, there a quite a few factors you need to consider for the best chance of healing in your family.
How can you find the right person for your family? Finding a family counselor can feel overwhelming. Or you may have had negative experiences with counseling and are gun shy about going through the process again.
The goal of this article is to prepare you to start looking for a family counselor who will be a good fit for your family. First, we will consider what type of counselor your family needs. Second, we will discuss how to choose the right one. Finally, we will consider how to work out therapy within your budget. Reading this article is the first toward healing for your family.
How Do I Know if My Family Needs Therapy?
Most view family therapy as a last resort when things are out of control and people are already reeling from psychological damage, but family therapy can be started early to prevent more painful consequences. Don’t wait until things are out of control. The earlier you seek counseing, the better your family can weather the storms of life.
A family counselor can help prevent or decrease the intensity of family problems. The most important thing about finding a family counselor is finding one that the whole family feels safe with so everyone can be honest and open in discussion. What type of family therapist you need depends on your unique family’s needs.
What Does Your Family Need?
Families are not “one size fits all.” The effectiveness of counseling is related to properly diagnosing what your family needs. If you feel overwhelmed with parenting, you will likely need a different counselor than someone struggling with communication with their spouse. Most therapists will be able to address the issues on a general level, but many specialize in these specific family matters making them better equipped to help your family.
Couple therapy is typically seen as a “hail mary pass,” the last ditch effort before a marriage crumbles. But this isn’t always the case. You can engage in couples therapy before you are on the last straw.
Whether you are married, engaged, or dating, you can benefit from couples counseling. Couples therapy can maximize your relationship. It can range from a few sessions highlighting how to communicate better or fight more fairly. Or it could consist of dealing with more long-term relationship patterns to help you avoid a cycle of abuse.
Behavior intervention is great for children who are running into trouble at school, with peers, or with adults outside the home. Behavior intervention incorporates the whole household to help the child.
In family therapy, children struggling to control their behavior will learn what is acceptable and what is unacceptably through praise, rewards, and unwanted consequences. It will also help parents to set and hold boundaries, as well as other parenting skills.
A typical practice in this form of family therapy is for the therapist to dissect family conflict. They want to know what happens before, during, and after the conflict. Once a therapist understands the family process, then they can help the family to enact healthy change in each of these areas. Parent involvement in counseling is pivotal. If they don’t learn and implement the tools, then they won’t see any change in behavior.
Parent coaching is different from behavior intervention because the focus is on the parents, rather than the child. The children may or may not be present in the coaching sessions. The goal of coaching is to learn how to be an effective parent, caring for your children’s psychological, social, and emotional health. In coaching, parents can learn how to better discipline, understand what their children need, and establish healthy boundaries.
Issues Between Parent and Child
Constant relational conflict between parent and child is another reason for family counseling. If fighting or disrespect is becoming a pattern, then you should seek professional help. This is especially true when children are experiencing mental health issues or puberty because during these times maintaining a positive relationship can be difficult.
There is no one size fits all strategy to raising children. And sometimes a method that worked for one child, may drive a wedge between you and another child. Entering therapy will help you to reconcile the relationship between parent and child and help to establish better forms of communication.
Navigating Systems Involvement (CPS, Cops, Schools)
When a crisis comes, it is common for it to come in multiple areas of life, areas such as school, legal powers, and child protective services. Navigating these many organizations can be difficult and confusing. You may not even know if you are making any progress with the different institutions, or worse yet feel like you are being ignored or pushed to the side.
If you are struggling to work with and navigate the different systems, then you may want to consider meeting with a clinical social worker. Social workers are specifically qualified to help you understand and navigate the systems, so you can advocate for yourself and those you love. They will be able to give you the guidance and therapeutic support you and your family need to work through the issues.
What to Look for in a Family Counselor
If you aren’t comfortable with your family counselor, then the counseling process won’t be very effective. This makes finding the right therapist key. Each Therapist comes with their own style, some will use “tough love,” while others will be softer around the edges.
Finding the right person is just as important as finding someone who is a specialist in your target issues. Sometimes the best place to start looking for a therapist is by reading their website and any articles they’ve written. You will get a sense of who they are and how they operate. Then you will be be able to decide whether you want to pursue them further.
Once you’ve done your initial research and booked an appointment, prepare some questions for the therapist. Don’t be afraid to ask them how they typically work with people or other questions about their practice. By asking questions, you will be able to hear from them and figure out if it is a good fit. If you don’t think they’re the right person, that’s okay. Sometimes it will take visiting several therapists before you find the one best suited to your needs.
While researching a family counselor, it’s also helpful to consider what type of practice they run. Some practices are based on a specific religion or others work primarily with children or adults. Doing this sort of research can help you eliminate options that aren’t a good fit early because it’s best to find a practice already equipped for your families needs.
Other Things to Consider
The other main concern when it comes to finding a therapist is the price. Therapy is expensive, but it is worth it when you consider the health and psychological well being of your family. It also can prevent more costly and extreme forms of acting out, which saves you money in the long run.
You need to think of therapy as a preventative form of medicine. Spending the money now will save you money in the future. With all that being said, therapy can be more affordable than most people think.
Some therapists bill insurance directly and are considered in-network providers. The bills are directly handled between the provider and the insurance company.
Many therapists do not bill the insurance directly because of the high operating costs to do so. Instead, they operate as an “out-of-network provider.” This type of payment will consist of a flat rate and a receipt.
You pay up front and then can submit the receipt to your insurance for a reimbursement of a portion of the session fee. Be sure to talk with your insurance company about these reimbursements so you know exactly what they will cover. Each insurance company will vary when it comes to their policies.
If you plan to operate without using insurance, you have several options. The simplest is paying “out of pocket,” which is when you pay the therapist their flat rate. Rates for therapists usually range from $150-$200 a session, but ultimately depend on the the therapist and prices vary widely.
Some families pay up to 25% of their income on therapy, which isn’t all that uncommon. This may seem excessive, but you have to remember that this is preventative medicine to keep your family healthy.
If these prices seem drastically out of reach, there are some therapists who use a sliding scale. A sliding scale is when a therapist charges you according to your income. If you make enough, you will pay the full fee, but if you make less, then you will pay a smaller fee.
Sliding scales are common among therapists. Sliding scales also vary widely among therapists. Other more budget-friendly options are non-profit providers who usually accept state insurance or other clinics where they use interns working to gain their license.
Where Can I Find a Family Counselor Near Me?
With this information, you can begin looking for a family therapist. For “in-network-providers,” it is probably best to check with your insurance company. If you are working with state insurance, look into a non-profit in your area. If a Christian worldview is important to you, then do the research to see if there are any Christian practices in your area.
It may seem overwhelming when it comes to finding a family counselor, but you don’t have to worry. If you do your research and ask the right questions, you quickly find the right help and support your family needs.
“Family Sunset,” courtesy of Mike Scheid, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Family Time,” courtesy of Rhone, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hug,” courtesy of O.C. Gonzalez, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Family at Home,” Courtesy of Normalityrelief, Flickr.com, CC BY-SA 2.0 License