Will and I went back to family therapy a few months ago to talk about our kids and our parenting.
We talked about it for six months before we actually made the appointment–with a therapist we like, whom we’ve known for a long time. I’m a huge believer in counseling, but we waited too long to make the appointment: I was buying into some common myths about therapy, even though I should have known better.
A lot of people have told me they’ve delayed–or never used–therapy because they weren’t sure if it was for them. That’s a shame, so I wanted to debunk some common myths, and share my favorite parts of our experience.
5 myths about family counseling.
We’re not in crisis. Nothing about our situation was dire: we didn’t have an emergency, it wasn’t as bad as all that–we just had some nagging concerns, and wanted a professional’s opinion on whether or not we were handling them well.
It’s expensive. Okay: it’s expensive. But it cost about 75% less than I expected because–to my surprise–insurance covered a large chunk. I felt a lot better about making that first appointment once I knew it wasn’t costing me $150 an hour. We went for a total of 3 sessions, so the price tag wasn’t horrible.
It’s a sign of weakness. Yeah, whatever.
I can just talk to friends and family. I’ve heard Susan Wise Bauer address this point repeatedly: if you pay a counselor to listen to you, you have no obligation to them in return. That’s why you pay them. This is a beautiful thing for women–and definitely for homeschooling mothers–who are already carrying a heavy emotional load.
It’s touchy-feely. While the counselors I’ve seen have certainly said things like, “get in touch with your emotions,” our sessions have contained heavy doses of analysis and problem solving. Counselors want to see you succeed, and they’ll equip you with practical tools to do so.
My favorite things about family therapy
Reassurance. It was worth going just to hear a professional say, “You’re doing a good job with this parenting thing.”
Perspective: Therapy forced us to get our our unarticulated worries out of our heads. Once we got specific with our concerns–and said them out loud, to a third party–they didn’t sound like such a huge deal.
Strategies: Before we went to therapy, I had no idea how to address certain behaviors, and my attempts to do so were going badly. We talked through specific strategies in therapy: after 3 sessions, we had a new toolbox of responses to rely on.
Confidence: This is directly tied to the strategies above. Before therapy, I felt helpless to engage with certain behaviors or moods. Now I feel much better equipped to parent my kids.
Bibliotherapy. We focused on the paradigm set forth in John Gottman’s Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child, which wasn’t exactly a page-turner but was very, very helpful. I’d highly recommend it to all parents.
We also left therapy with a handful of book recommendations to peruse at our leisure, like The Everything Parent’s Guide to Sensory Integration Disorder.
(I’ve also found The Highly Sensitive Child to be enormously helpful in parenting our kids. If we ever go back to family therapy, you can bet I’ll be discussing this one with our book-loving therapist.)
(I know that our recent experience with family therapy sounds pretty rosy, with our 3 visits and a happy resolution. Our previous round of counseling involved a much more dire situation, a whole lot of tears, and unanswered questions. Both experiences were extremely valuable.)
If you feel comfortable doing so, please share your thoughts about or experiences with counseling in comments.