Family Therapy

At our best of existence, we are parts of a family, and at our highest level of achievement we work to keep the family alive. – Maya Angelou

What is Family Therapy?

Family therapy helps parents and children better understand and appreciate themselves and each other. Greater mutual understanding helps children feel validated, and results in the development of a secure and healthy parent-child relationship, a joyful experience for parents. Parents gain insight about their child’s questionable behavior and emotional presentation, helping them to breathe easier.

  • During the process of Family Therapy the unique needs of the child and parent(s) are identified.
  • Family members have “ah ha” moments, gaining new understanding about themselves and each other. These pivotal moments establish a new direction and way forward.
  • Working together the family experiences renewed trust and becomes curious about “how good can it get?” Recognizing their goals for growth and healing are attainable, the family feels energized, hopeful and optimistic.

Who is Family Therapy For?

In Dr. Cohen’s eyes a family is a group of people committed to caring about and for one another. They define themselves as a family and hold each others’ hearts close to their own.

Dr. Cohen helps families navigate the challenges of life related to raising a child and being a family. She also works with couples who are in the process of considering parenthood, or are transitioning to parenthood.

Below are examples of situations, during which parents reach out for Family Therapy:

  • When one or more family members is experiencing stress, pain, confusion, grief, or a crisis. During this time there may be disruptions to the way a family has been functioning, or interpersonal interactions may be strained, unpleasant or even stinging.  When a young person in the family is struggling, they are often unable to find the words to voice their feelings, or identify the obstacles that are getting in their way.
  • When one or more family members are demonstrating a significant change in their behavior that is threatening their future, and the ability of the family to tend to daily activities; e.g., engaging in high risk or irrational behavior.
  • When family members are in agreement that they would like to see the interactions between one another change. A family member(s) may feel in need of more support, less pressure, or desire a change in the amount or type of attention they are receiving.
  • When parents feel that their child’s behavior is out-of-control; e.g., disrespectful of family rules, addressing parents with aggressive behavior or profanity, or failing to respect a curfew.
  • When parents want guidance about establishing effective boundaries and limits; e.g., youth may need more or less containment, supervision, independence, responsibility, and even opportunities to make mistakes.
  • When youth are having a difficult time adjusting to their parents’ separation or divorce. Finding accurate, developmentally appropriate, and unbiased words to explain to youth why their parents are changing their relationship status can be challenging. When parents are also experiencing big emotions about their partner, identifying effective words to talk with their child about the changes can feel daunting.

Times to benefit from family therapy are not limited to life’s tragedies or struggles. Reaching joyous milestones, including school graduations, early adult launchings, marriage, and the birth of a sibling, shifts the way families operate. Even the happiest changes include elements of uncertainty and the unknown, and therefore, can be stressful. This is especially true for young family members who typically have little input with such decisions. Proactively addressing “the unknowns, the questions, and the whatabouts,” as a family can reduce anxiety, clarify assumptions and help family members feel more secure.

Research shows Family Therapy is useful for: children, young people, adults and older adults experiencing a wide range of difficulties and circumstances including:

Child and adolescent mental health issues, difficulties with emotional regulation, mood disorders
Child and adolescent behaviour difficulties, defiance, self-harm, truancy
Parenting questions and challenges
Parenting conflicts; e.g., when to get on the same parenting page and when to agree to disagree
Multigenerational parenting conflicts
Illness, disability, and the related loss or grief, and subsequent redistribution of responsibilities in the family
Separation, divorce, blended family life, or other circumstances that change the family’s structure
Impending death, hospice, loss and grief related to the passing of a significant person or pet, who was considered part of the family
Adoption issues, foster and kinship care, or the care of a relative’s minors
Emotional and behavioral problems arising from witnessing domestic violence, or being a victim of abuse
The effects of trauma; e.g., being a victim of crime, significant abuse, a natural disaster, or a car, boat, or hiking accident
Family or individual difficulties related to individuation, launching a young adult, or other developmental and life cycle milestones
Intergenerational value differences
Conflicts related to immigration experiences or acculturation

How does Family Therapy work?

Since no two families are the same and come to Family Therapy for various reasons, Dr Cohen initially seeks to understand what’s happening, how the family is functioning, and the wants and needs of each individual. To accomplish this understanding Dr Cohen may suggest an occasional meeting with some family members individually and some members together. Typically, Family Therapy works best when everyone involved participates at one point or another.

  • An environment of safety is co-created that enables family members to express their thoughts and feelings, each member gaining self-awareness from the experience and the feedback they receive.  Family members also gain a more thorough understanding of each other.  This learning and insight occurs as a result of the opportunity Family Therapy creates for members to clarify what circumstances brought about their behavior, along with a chance for families to reaffirm their values. Family members learn to appreciate and value the uniqueness of each others contribution.
  • Individual and family goals are established focusing on learning, growth, and uniting the family. Family member concerns are addressed in ways that honor each person and recognize their position within the family. Families learn skills and methods to meet their treatment goals; e.g., increased resilience, improvements in communication, better management of individuals’ needs, closer interpersonal relationships, and more sharing about feelings.

Dr. Cohen is committed to successful outcomes and assisting families in realizing win-win solutions for all family members. Family Therapy aims to ensure that children and families are thriving, happy and enjoying a quality family life.

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