Everybody loves a good deal! Hop over to the local mall and you’ll see signs boasting fantastic sales. Turn on the TV and you’ll find yourself swimming in the gooey cheeses of a thousand Papa John’s commercials.
Whether you’re negotiating for a new car, couponing for groceries, or looking for a hefty discount on a summer vacation, maximizing potential benefits seems to be encoded into our very DNA.
You’re probably thinking, What does this have to do with family counseling?
While we seem to have become adept at employing this skill to purchase material goods, we sometimes fail to use this hardwired behavior in other areas of our lives.
How would things be different if you maximized the quality of your life experiences rather than focusing solely on increasing benefits from deals or sales? More specifically: How would the experience of family counseling be for participants if they were just as prepped and inquisitive as when they went bargain hunting?
For nearly ten years, I have worked with parents who are frustrated by their teens, and in many cases, vice versa. These are fathers, mothers, and young people who, despite their genuine love and appreciation for one another, are past the point of pulling their hair out in despair. It’s the counselor’s mission to help families identify the puzzles they’re trying to solve, but too often, the therapeutic change is strangled by a lack of clarity
Usually, when this happens parents can become despondent, teens become reluctant to participate in sessions, and the process sours. The fault lies with no single party. The potential benefits of the therapy experience could have been fully realized by keeping just a few key bits of knowledge in focus related to effective family counseling.
Here are some strategies to consider:
Tip #1: Have a goal.
So you’ve come to counseling because you and your family are having some issues? That’s great. But more specifically: What is it that you and your family want to improve over the next few weeks? The issues may range from dreadful report cards to helicopter parenting.
But the problems families bring into the office often conceal questions of larger significance: “What’s the best way for me to get my point across to my mom?” “How do I teach my son the value of work?”
Tip #2: Do the homework.
Remember the training montage in Rocky where Stallone is chasing chickens and running around in Philadelphia in 40-degree weather while sporting the famous gray sweats? That’s therapy homework!
Therapists may give families an assignment to complete outside of session. This provides families with the opportunity to practice new patterns of interacting, set good boundaries, or receive insight into improving relationships. It may seem silly, but taking advantage of homework is like getting in extra reps at the gym.
Tip #3: Be prepared to screw up some things.
Guess what? You’re not perfect and neither is your teen, and that’s okay. Too often we’re susceptible to throwing in the towel if things don’t immediately change. The same is true with progress in therapy. If the most recent session was tense or the family therapy homework felt uncomfortable, try sticking with the process and discussing the bumpy ride with the counselor at your family’s next session.
Family counseling can be an incredibly enriching experience capable of producing powerful changes for parents and their children. Being intentional about the change process is an essential part of maximizing the benefits of counseling experiences. Don’t be discouraged to take on homework assignments, remember that the process can be emotionally messy, and keep a clear goal in mind and heart. It may not mean a monetary discount or extra savings, but the life benefits for you and your family can be priceless.