There are also times when families experience extreme stressors or unexpected changes in the context of family development. Events that fracture family systems through trauma or loss, demand a greater level of adjustment, change and emotional strength. In times of difficulty, family therapy can be an effective resource to help families adjust to continuum of life stressors from mild to severe.
My 17 year old graduated high school. He is my second child – the middle – which often leads him to lament that he has gotten swindled out of something good that his oldest brother and his younger sister were bestowed at birth. Yet there he is, graduating with honors, 6’6” tall, and handsome as can be. He’ll go to MSU this fall; and his brother will return to Michigan (And, no I’m not getting a “house divided” flag for my porch.).
My daughter will then start high school and for the first time in her life, she’ll be living in the house without her big brothers. She has already said she is anxious about when they leave, but she is excited to finally have her own bathroom in the house. As I look at my children, it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was changing diapers, reading board books outloud, and rocking my children to sleep.
Since my oldest son was born almost 20 years ago, I have lived in five different houses, earned my PhD, run 11 marathons, been divorced, broke my leg, lost a job in the recession, started dying my hair because I don’t like all the white that is coming in, spectated countless children’s sporting events, worked A LOT of hours, gotten remarried, traveled to another country, etc. and I am essentially “still trying to figure out my life,” on a daily basis.
But as I watched my son in his graduation gown, it occurred to me that this is why I have always enjoyed being a family therapist. Families are dynamic, living, ever-changing and adapting systems influenced by development, society, culture and finances amongst other things. They are constantly changing and growing. Family members strike a balance between the uniqueness of their individual selves, stages, feelings, thoughts and lives in the context of family, in the context of society.
It’s an amazing interchange that creates this whirlwind of excitement, stress, growth, loss, thought, and emotion; an intensity of experience that defines us as we define ourselves and contribute to the definition of our family. It’s powerful. It’s human. It’s who we are. When my sons leave for college this fall, we will all adapt in a cascade of changes that are powerful, exciting and emotional. Each family member will have a unique experience of these changes, but as we go through them, we will affect each other; we will also affect and redefine our family and how we communicate. We will strike some form of balance again as we always have. Yet everything will continue to change.
All families deal with stress and problems. That’s just the reality of family life. Family therapists are trained to work with the stressors that maturational changes in the family life cycle can bring about. Sometimes therapy is with the family; sometimes with different subsystems such as siblings or parents; and other times individual members may come in to talk. Family therapists help family members make adjustments to their communication styles, developmental expectations, and overall understanding to improve family adaptation to the changing demands of family life.
If you’re ready to explore family therapy, contact us.
Perspectives Therapy Services is a multi-site mental and relationship health practice with clinic locations in Brighton, Lansing, Highland and Fenton, Michigan. Our clinical teams include experienced, compassionate and creative therapists with backgrounds in psychology, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling, and social work. Additionally, we offer psychiatric care in the form of evaluations and medication management. Our practice prides itself on providing extraordinary care. We offer a customized matching process to prospective clients whereby an intake specialist carefully assesses which of our providers would be the very best fit for the incoming client. We treat a wide range of concerns that impact a person's mental health including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, low self-worth, life transitions, and childhood and adolescent difficulties.