What are family problems? 

Relationships in our family are usually the first we build in our lives, and often the most important. But they can also bring up the strongest of emotions. Whatever the family, at times they may experience tension, between parents and children, within couples, between siblings, or in the wider family. Parents may struggle to communicate with their adolescent children and vice versa, or struggle to look after older members of the family. Individual mental health issues such as anxiety, addiction, eating disorders and depression can also contribute to tensions within the family. Most people and families experience serious difficulties at some point in their lives. Relationships with our families and the values we are brought up with, especially in early childhood, can have a significant impact on our self-esteem, mental health, and interpersonal relationships later in life. 

Also, in the modern world, there are many more ways of being included in a family. On top of traditional routes such as adoption and fostering, reproductive technologies enable a number of variations, through surrogacy, and egg or sperm donation. There are also people who, through the easy availability of DNA testing, are at some point in their lives faced with changes in their family make-up and their knowledge of their genetic inheritance.


What kind of issues do people have with their family?

Issues that can affect familial relationships or how we interact with our family members include:

  • child and adolescent mental health difficulties
  • anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders
  • self-harm
  • divorce, separation, and step-family life
  • adoption, fostering, and the needs of ‘looked-after’ children
  • bullying
  • parenting issues
  • domestic violence and abuse
  • effects of trauma and abuse
  • difficulties related to ageing 
  • bereavement
  • child and adult behavioural issues
  • birth and post-partum depression
  • financial issues


How can counselling or therapy help with family problems?

Whether you are part of a family going through a crisis, or struggle with your relationship with a parent or child, therapy could help. 

Therapists can work with individuals to help them reflect on the nature of their relationships with family members. It is very common for clients to talk to therapists about their relationships in the family as it is often integral to their understanding of themselves and their place in the world. 

Families can also have therapy together to help them communicate better and overcome difficulties. This is usually called family or systemic therapy.

Family therapy helps family members and couples to explore difficult thoughts and emotions, understand each other better, and make useful changes in their individual lives and relationships. The therapist works with the family, not taking sides but encouraging families to engage and share with each other. Therapy provides a safe and inclusive environment to express feelings, recognise family strengths and ultimately foster change.

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Last updated on 11 April 2016