Family problems can manifest in the healthiest of families, resulting in challenging, frustrating, and painful interactions among family members. From little irritations to buried resentments, from dramatic arguments to feelings of guilt, disappointment, and anger we did not even know we had, our families often bring up the most intense emotions we experience, for better or worse.
Common Concerns and Symptoms
Ideally, our families are those whom we can always rely on for support, from whom we draw strength and feedback, for whom we feel love and concern, and with whom we feel close and comfortable, openly sharing thoughts and feelings. In reality, few families meet this expectation 100% of the time, and in some cases, a person’s family is far from ideal, associated instead with stress, misunderstanding, anger, disconnection, and unmet needs. From our family of origin, we develop our expectations of others, communication skills, outlook on life, ability to give and receive love, and coping skills, among myriad other traits, and chronic family problems can have lasting effects.
Family problems from mild to severe will challenge every family at some point. These can result from behavioral and mental health issues in the family or from specific stressful events. Common family problems include:
Whatever the source, distressing family dynamics can greatly interfere with the functioning of every family member, including extended family, although those living in the same household are likely to be impacted more significantly than those who live apart. When family members do not get along, the tension can impact each family member’s mental and physical health, relationships, and even his or her capacity for routine tasks. Evidence of family problems can materialize through repeated family conflicts, dramatic behavioral shifts in children and adolescents, mood swings and depression.
Fortunately, resolving family issues require the cooperation of everyone in the family, and this provides a great opportunity to strengthen family ties and interactions.
Psychotherapy for Family Problems
Family therapy is designed to help families collaborate to address family problems. The course of treatment is often brief, and most family therapy models seek to address the communication (verbal and nonverbal) styles of the family, as well as any individual issues that may be interfering with the cohesiveness of the family system. Family problems do not have to be severe to warrant therapy. Working with a therapist, families can expect to learn to understand one another better, communicate more effectively, and work proactively to disrupt unhealthy patterns.
Marriage and family therapists may offer to see the family as a group in each session, or individual sessions may be provided to supplement the group sessions. Most forms of family therapy fall under the umbrella of family systems therapy, though there are a number of treatment modalities suitable to addressing family concerns.
Ideally, family problems are addressed as they surface, but many times family problems are not handled in a timely fashion and sometimes not at all; instead, issues surrounding an event or family pattern may surface for family members later in life. Family-of-origin concerns are frequently addressed as part of individual therapy, whether the person enters therapy expressly for that purpose or for other concerns.