Family therapy is as unique as your family, yet shares this one quality ..
People seeking family therapy often wonder if the family therapist has ever worked with “families like ours.” That is a good question for anyone seeking family therapy to ask a potential therapist! If the answer is, “No,” it doesn’t mean it’s the wrong family therapist for you. After all, in my experience, every family is unique.
The easier question, to me, is “What does family therapy sound like?” Usually … loud. Whether the family includes small children, teenagers, adult sibling sets, or a mix of partners, everyone wants to have his or her say. That makes sense.
- We all want to be validated.
- We all long to be seen and heard.
- We all desire to know we matter.
We don’t outgrow our need for validation. It is not a sign of weakness, it is a mark of our strength. Lack of validation is where families get in trouble.
We each inhabit our own world. We may live and eat together, but our experiences are uniquely ours. Because they feel so true to us, we can get trapped into thinking they are the only truth.
Our experiences of the here and now is shaped by our unique experience of the past. It is also shaped by the beliefs we have about self, others, and the world around us. In fact, both our past and our beliefs filter external information in and out of our awareness. In other words, if we don’t believe it, we won’t see it.
Family members clash when they:
- Assume their experience is the only truth
- Deny others a different experience
- Doubt their own experience matters
- Impose their experience onto others
- Aren’t allowed to share their experience
- Don’t express themselves
And the list goes on, because there are many ways not to validate our own or another person’s experience.
So, what does family therapy look like? It looks like a specially trained therapist guiding a group of people who consider each other family–by blood or bond–through the process of validating one another’s experience. Eventually, as people tune into their emotions, it gets quieter. They feel their feelings, share them, and get the sense that others are moved. As they hear each other, solutions emerge!
These quieter times are the ones we’ve been avoiding. They are the times we express our more vulnerable feelings. Turning inward and revealing ourselves is harder than pointing fingers. Yet, it is the work of relationships–especially love and family relationships. It is how we grow.
A great question, and one that lurks in the back of the minds of many people considering family therapy is, “What does family therapy feel like?”
I find this work to be filled with a full range of emotions, especially the more vulnerable ones like sadness and fear. I feel hem too. There are times, however, when people are finally hearing and seeing each other–showing that they matter to each other–that the hair on my arms stands up. That’s when family therapy feels sacred.
While family therapy will look as unique as your family, successful family therapy all looks the same. Feeling like we don’t matter to the people that matter most, is terrifyingly painful. It triggers a fight-or-flight response in us. We feel like our survival is up for grabs. If we can learn to relate warmly to the people who have hurt us the most, surely we can relate to everyone else. That’s why, to me, successful family therapy is the image of hope.
If you are interested in family therapy, call (919) 929-1171 and schedule an appointment with Dr. Keller.