Family Counseling

Family counseling can be helpful for a number of teen problems. In family counseling, family members learn together how to help troubled teens. Family counseling is often recommended in conjunction with individual counseling for teens struggling with family issues.

Family counseling is when the whole family, or members of the family who are old enough to participate, go to counseling along with their teen to understand his or her problems and learn ways to help the teen as a family. It can also be used to help families who are in turmoil or conflict resolve their problems more peacefully. Some programs for troubled teens require or strongly recommend family counseling, and even if it is not required many families find that it helps them and their teen.

Family counseling may be recommended for families of teens with a variety of behavior or health problems:

  • Substance abuse
  • Aggression or violence
  • Illegal activities
  • Conflicts between parents and children
  • Obesity
  • Eating disorders
  • Depression and mental illness
  • Mental or physical disabilities
  • Terminal or chronic illness

Family counseling is generally used in addition to other treatments for the troubled teen, such as medications, individual therapy, or hospitalization, depending on the problems the teen is facing. Parents can also seek out family counseling if the teen is not responding well to other types of therapy. The family counseling may not solve all the teen's problems, but it can help the family cope with them better.

According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, about 1.8 million people are currently receiving family counseling. Of those, most report an improvement after counseling, with about three-fourths reporting improved behavior in children and teens.

Family counseling is usually offered by clinical social workers or licensed marriage and family therapists. These counselors have extra schooling or training in marriage and family therapy and may also be members of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. The family counselor should not be the same person a teen or another member of the family already visits for therapy sessions since they need to be unbiased.

Family counselors will meet with the members of the family who come to family counseling, and may also meet with each family member individually. The course of action a family pursues in family counseling will depend on the family's specific problems and goals. The length and frequency of sessions vary, but they usually do not continue for more than 6 months.

To find a family counselor in your area, check with your doctor or others involved with your teen's treatment. Family counseling may be covered by your insurance, and if you need help paying for family therapy you may be able to find family counseling through low cost or free community programs. Try to find a family counselor who has experience with the problems your family is facing, and who has a good reputation or is recommended by others whom you trust. You may also want to find a family counselor who shares your values or religious beliefs. Some religious organizations offer family counseling.


MayoClinic, "Family Therapy" [online]

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, "FAQs on MFT" [online]

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