Family Therapy: What to Expect and How to Prepare

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Family Therapy: What to Expect and How to Prepare

A family of four sitting with a family therapist.

Deciding to participate in family therapy is a big step in resolving family disagreements, decades-long resentment and bitterness, and personality clashes. It’s normal to feel anxious about your first session because you may not know what to expect, and you might feel there’s a lot riding on therapy to resolve family issues.

To help relieve your family’s anxiety over family counseling, we’ve provided an overview of what to expect during your first family therapy session. With this guide and a few tips on preparing for therapy, you and your family will be on the right track for successful future sessions where everyone will feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings.

What to Expect for Your First Family Therapy Session

During your first session, the family counselor will meet with the whole family at one time to understand the problem and the family dynamics. From there, the counselor will suggest a course of action moving forward.

Identifying the Problem

Your family therapist will listen to every individual in the session to determine where past hurts lie and how this pain has disrupted communication and led to other unhealthy behaviors.

Providing a Safe Space

For a family session to go successfully and help reconnect family members, everyone needs to feel heard and not judged within the session. A licensed and experienced mental health professional will strive to create a safe space where every individual has a chance to speak, especially within the first session, so that they can feel comfortable opening up more in the future.

Coming Up with a Plan

By the end of the first session, the family therapist will identify the key problem areas and suggest a treatment plan that includes goals for the family to reach throughout treatment.

How to Prepare for Your Family Therapy Session

Whether you will be attending family therapy with your young children and husband, your teenage son, or your adult children, there are a few things you can do to help prepare for your first session.

Explain Why You’re Getting Therapy

Make sure everyone is on the same page about why you are going to family therapy together. It can be especially difficult for young children to understand why they are meeting with a stranger to talk about their feelings, so take a few minutes to explain how therapy will help everyone communicate better. Remember to stay positive and keep an open mind.

Write Down Questions and Topics

It’s too easy to forget points we want to make or questions we want to ask in the heat of the moment. Before your initial therapy session (and any subsequent sessions), write down any topics you would like to cover with the assistance of a licensed mental health professional. You can also keep a list of any questions you may have for the therapist. Preparing ahead of time in this way can help everyone gather their thoughts and help everyone get the most out of a session.

Plan What You Want to Say

If you know something you would like to discuss in a therapy session that you know may not be well-received by your spouse, teenager, or adult child, think of a way to gently and concisely get your point across so you can feel prepared to share your thoughts, rather than backing out at the moment. If the person you are addressing becomes defensive during the session, your therapist can help direct the conversation.

Finding the Right Family Therapist

After your initial family therapy session, you and your family should feel like your voices have been heard, your therapist is empathetic, and you are hopeful about your family’s chance to heal and resolve conflicts. If you do not feel this way after a few different appointments with the mental health professional, this could mean the therapist is not a good fit for you and your family. Finding a therapist you can trust and that understands your family dynamics plays a major role in the success of your family therapy.

If you’re seeking family counseling in Bucks County, PA, turn to Hope Springs Behavioral Health. Our licensed family counselors will find the best solutions for your family’s needs. We also offer individual therapy sessions and anxiety support groups in our Bucks County office if family therapy is not the solution for your circumstances. Contact us to find out more about our counseling services.