Major Issues in Counselling for Family Problems


Major Issues in Counselling for Family Problems

We all start life with a family – of blood relatives, adopted parents or foster members. Our families are always there to support us in our need and difficulties. Having said that, family life isn’t always perfect as many issues can crop up. Our family is the most immediate, powerful and constant social impact on us, which influences every aspect of our lives, from cradle to grave. Our family undergoes many changes throughout and thus, it’s normal to have occasional family problems. But it is comforting that help and support can help us overcome difficult times.

 How does family counselling help?

Family dynamics

Family dynamics can change a lot as they undergo transitions like births, deaths, marriages and divorces. Add to it that each family is unique, endowed as it is with its own belief and value systems. So, within a family, the differences of opinions about a range of issues are perfectly normal.

Many factors affect our family relationships, which, in turn, impact our lives. Our families absorb many outside stresses and strains but the pressures can sometimes spill over. Personal problems can overwhelm a family to the extent that it might appear as if there is no way forward. The changes within a family can leave it confused, angry or hurt.

The love, grudges, loyalties and betrayals of family life have lasting psychological effects. Whether we stay close or separately, our relationships with family members can shape us like no other. So much so that they define us or have an everlasting impact on what we should be.

Especially as children, we spend much time with our families, which has an undisputed impact on us in later life. We come to develop our expectations of others, communication skills, outlook on life and many other things. Therefore, given their lasting impact, the family problems need to be resolved in time to keep them from becoming major life issues.

Family Problems

A family offers support, encouragement and love but, sometimes, the relationships can be strained. Common family problems can involve infidelity, monetary disputes, addictions, mental illness, grief and illnesses. Sometimes, such issues exist between only two family members, while others can involve the entire family. Issues like grief over the demise of a loved one are visible to all; other problems may be more subtle – a child not coming out openly or an unhappily married wife.

Quite often, family problems have underlying causes, not visible – which impact the entire family. Such conflicts can be especially potent in case of children, who carry them over into later lives and future family relationships.

 Common Family Problems

Counselling for Family Problems

As a life coach dealing with marriage counselling for couples and families, I have found the following common family problems:

  1. Disruption due to separation or divorce
  2. Problems with step-family or a new partner
  3. Debt or other financial problems
  4. Bereavement or illness causing changes in family structure
  5. Adolescents’ behavioural problems
  6. Children leaving home
  7. Infidelity/ cheating
  8. Sibling conflict/ rivalry
  9. Mental illness
  10. Substance abuse- Drugs and alcohol
  11. Differences over parenting styles

In many cases, there may be many issues causing a family problems and it may not be possible to ‘fix’ it. However, we can adjust our attitude to what is happening and try to find solutions to make our lives easier.

 Solving Family Problems

As a life coach dealing with family problems, I always recommend a culture of openness, trust, communication and a keenness to resolve family issues that can strengthen family relationships and maintain positive family dynamics.

I would suggest all families to make a sincere attempt to

  1. create a sharing environment
  2. admit the problem
  3. look for the basic issue, leaving aside its symptoms
  4. rescue your relationships, keeping aside anger, ego and pride
  5. access professional help, if you can’t resolve it yourself
  6. take good care of thmselves

 Family Counselling

A family, whether of blood relatives or chosen, is often composed of the most important connections that humans have. Societies have been formed around families, and without our connections to one other and our biological instinct to protect our family, we may not have evolved. However, most families face disagreements, stress and conflict. This is where family counselling steps in.

Family counseling is an approach to help a family encourage conversation and communicate better with each other to resolve issues. Family counselling usually works best with cognitive behaviour therapy, systemic and solution-focused therapy, to take a closer look at all family members. The aim is to clarify the problems and focus on solutions, rather than delving into their origins. It can improve self-reflection for the individuals and self-awareness of the family. The goal of family counselling is helping families build stronger relationships, but it means different things to different families, as we all face unique challenges. Ultimately, the aim is to enable families to enjoy being together and to face challenges as a team.

A family counsellor maintains neutrality to have a platform free from blame. It allows the members to explore the problem and express their concerns and perspectives.


The counsellor gathers the views of the family through questions about the differences they face. Thereafter, the members are invited to become observers of the questions answered by other members and of their own behaviours and assumptions. The counsellor gives the group a chance to and reflect on the situation to move towards a better way of being together.

 In such cases, an assessment may be difficult as defining the problem can mean something different to each member. One person might be blamed, who may blame someone else. The interconnected relationships within a family are central to this counselling. The logistics of getting all members to participate can pose difficulties, but it can be rewarding to establish healthier ways of living together as a family.

Counselling can help identify the events including incidents transitions or repeating patterns that have led to the family needing help. Family problems might be mapped out to show their development and allow members to gain clarity about the problems.

How to Solve Family Problems?

  1. Communication

Most common arguments are engineered by poor communication. Everyone needs the chance to explain themselves. Therefore, to strengthen family relationships, open communication needs to be a top priority.

Very often, a common casualty of a disagreement is the closure of communication channels, which tends to worsen the problem.  So keep the lines of communication open. Set aside your ego as one needs a big heart to become the first one to tackle a problem. Reach out first, however hard it may seem. 

* If it doesn’t fructify, a family elder can mediate. 

* Ignoring it will worsen the problem, leading to further coldness in the relationship. Better to express yourself at a suitable time and occasion. But obviously, raking up a family problem at festive times isn’t a sensible thing to do.

* Drinking before a tough family conversation can fuel emotions, hamper your thinking and block your conversation.  Avoid.

* Many kids are reluctant to express themselves due to the fear of ridicule/ shame. Explain to them that each one is welcome to express themselves openly. 

  1. Conflicts

Disagreements are part of family dynamics, especially of egalitarian families. But they can easily become arguments and conflicts, which can damage family relationships and peace. 

Arguments, by themselves, aren’t bad; they tend to promote independent thinking but the trouble with them is that they often slip out of hands. Do argue but have some rules and do not let emotions overpower you. You may hurt others unintentionally.


  1. Define the problem clearly and avoid generalizations. For instance, if your spouse didn’t pick a glass lying on the bed today, do not say “You’ll never do that”. You know there has only been one such incident. 
  2. Argue over the specific point. Avoid bringing up other past grouses, which is of  no good here. 
  3. Focus on the solution instead of stretching the argument. If your spouse never presses the toothpaste tube from the bottom, it’s no fun arguing. Get two toothpastes, instead. Simple!
  4. Focus on the reasons behind others’ behavior and if the disagreement becomes a fight, have a time-out and return to it whenever you are back to normal.
  1. Work-Life Balance

Counselling for Family Problems


A great way to strengthen family relationships is ensuring good work-life balance. Unhealthy work-life balance can lead to family conflicts. Amidst jobs/ businesses, achieving a work-life balance may be tricky. But this one is relatively easier to resolve with smart planning and slick execution. Create clear boundaries between work and life so that they don’t overlap, leading to conflicts.  

With healthy work-life balance, you can have better focus and give due attention to work and family.

Solution: Leave work at the workplace and focus on family when off work. Delegate tasks to avoid being overworked. 

  1. Infidelity

Infidelity is emotional/physical unfaithfulness to a spouse and breaking a commitment/promise. Around 1/4th of all marriages face infidelity, a big threat to marriages and families. Prevention is the ideal solution here i.e. the partners commit to and nurture their relationship. 


Sadly, an extra-marital affair has no painless solution because to rebuild the broken trust, one needs time and a sincere commitment to change.

Solution: Working through shock, anger and grief takes time and effort. Be assertive rather than being aggressive as anger can lead to rash decisions. Practice mindfulness and self-regulation to calm yourself and think rationally.

The cheating spouse has to assume full responsibility and transparency and answer the other one’s questions. It can create an understanding of what went wrong and the required change. Though trust doesn’t come back overnight, accepting one’s responsibility is a good start.

 However, in extreme cases, separation is the only way out. The bitter pill needs to be swallowed where recovery is otherwise impossible. 

  1. Money Matters 

Finances can be big stressors, especially in financial stress. Arguments about money are important issues, which need to be addressed on priority. The most common disagreement is over the way people think of money management. With one spouse being a penny-pincher and the other one a spendthrift, there can be fireworks only.

Therefore, discuss calmly how you are going to handle income, expenditure, savings, insurance and investment. The spouses need to set out the priorities of how money it is to be used. 

Solution: Run on a monthly budget. In financial difficulties, cut back on expenses and look for additional income. Financial troubles can test a relationship but with openness and sincerity, you can navigate these tough times together.

  1. Distance

Physical/emotional distance can take a heavy toll and create relationship strain, especially with kids. Physical distance can be a compulsion due to one’s occupation. To compensate for physical distance, consider doing nightly video chats, online games or watching movies online together.

More dangerous than physical distance is the emotional distance despite physical proximity. It arises from mistrust or lack of communication, which leads to a lot less sharing.  

Solution: Discuss honestly and transparently. Listen to the other’s perspectives to  find a common ground. Try to accommodate the other person’s needs to save your relationship. 

  1. Disagreements over parenting styles

Every parent has a unique viewpoint about parenting shaped by their own upbringing. If you disagree on parenting, talk it out and  understand their views.

Solution: You need to make compromises and adjustments. However, if one parent’s style is toxic, you need to convince them of its toxicity and make them change. 

  1. Rebellious Children

Rebellious children test your limits. You can teach them the consequences of their actions by setting a positive example of how you react to your emotions. If you deal with an angry teenager, listen to their grievances and offer advice only if they ask for it.

Unravelling the knots 

Family problems are painful but you can prevent them in the initial stages. 

  1. Begin the discussion 
  2. Go to the root 
  3. Address the problem 

Beginning the Discussion 

  1. Wait until you’re and others are calm to avoid its becoming a full-blown feud. 

* When upset /emotional, wait. The emotion subsides somewhat and you’ll approach logically.

* Approaching someone while you are angry heightens a tough situation. Wait. 

  1. Deal in person

* Pick up the phone or, better, meet personally instead of e-mailing. 

  1. Admit faults

* Accept your faults. Look at family issues not as wrong-and-right. Instead, perceive the gray areas. 

* Apologize even if you did nothing wrong.

* Avoid blaming and use positive language.  

* Avoiding name calling. Blaming others makes them counter attack you. 

* Don’t try to “win”. Try to see two or more ways to see the issue. 

* Maintain a calm, modulated tone. Explain calmly, methodically. Cool down the argument with, “I can see your point.”

  1. Forgive 

* Forgive those who have wronged you. 

* Forgiveness frees you. It’s about letting go of the past to build a healthier future.

* All humans are imperfect and need forgiveness. 

Getting to the roots 

  1. Problem identification

* Identify the problem. Consider the real issue so that you can address it better. 

* Find out what they think and focus on causes, not symptoms. 

  1. Ask 

* Dig out the cause by asking questions.  

* Questions soften the conversation and draw out the truth.

* Ask open-ended questions and listen to them.

  1. Recognize when to discuss

* A family conflict clearly indicates relationship problems.

* Some problems are caused by differences of opinion such as on cultural values. Others can be substance abuse, mental sickness, bullying, mistrust, finances, stress, sex and jealousy.

Addressing the problem 

* Compromising implies that you evolve a mutually acceptable solution. 

* The first step is figuring out whether the problem is solvable. 

* Don’t talk when you’re distracted, on a project, or phone calls. 

Prevention is the best cure

The question of how to solve family problems becomes redundant if we know how to prevent them from happening. A sharing environment is the foundation of healthy communication. Family members should feel safe while baring feelings. A child must feel safe to share their viewpoint without any fear of judgment/punishment. Children who feel safe easily open up while struggling with a situation or making a difficult decision. This is also true of other family relationships.

Family counsellors recommend the following:

  1. Listen         
  2. Be willing to share your feelings. 
  3. Recognize others’ experiences as valid. 
  4. Admit your mistakes, encouraging others to admit theirs.
  5. Create a personal example of the behavior you want to see in others. 
  6. Do things together – hobbies, sports, activities – to achieve closeness, open communication and sharing.

However, if everything fails, it’s best to seek professional help.

Solving Family Problems – Some Suggestions

Environment of Sharing

An environment of sharing is the foundation to strengthen family relationships. The family members should feel safe while sharing their feelings and problems. As a parent, it means letting your child share their viewpoint without any fear of being judged or punished. A child needs to feel that they will be taken seriously to talk comfortably about mental health, identity, anxiety, or substance abuse. Such children open up easily while struggling or making a difficult decision. So is true of the relationships between siblings and a couple.

You can foster an environment of sharing with:

  • Listening

Listen before reacting. Ask if your advice is welcome. And if it is not, leave it for later.

Express your feelings as sometimes, they may not be obvious. Sharing your feelings may bring up new viewpoints and perspectives.

  • Being human

Admit your faults and mistakes to make others comfortable while admitting their mistakes.

  • Being the Change

Be a model of healthy ways of expressing emotions and be the change you want to see in others.

  • Do it together

“A family that eats together, prays together, always stays together.”

The families that spend time together develop closeness that facilitates open communication and sharing. Try to explore interests, sports or other family activities together. Such activities stimulate future conversations and closer relationships and set the stage for solving and preventing family problems.

  • Acknowledge the Problem

Life Coaching

Many a time, such problems arise from a lack of closeness while others involve something more serious like physical/ emotional abuse. Irrespective of the case, admitting that there is a problem is the first step. Sidelining the issues and pretending as if everything were fine are unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Unless such acknowledgment is there, the existing issues can worsen, trigger negative situations, and end up in lashing out, aggressive arguments, substance abuse, or violence. Acknowledging it enables positive action to fix it and may avert unhealthy coping mechanisms that create negative situations.

Read: The 7 Steps to Handle Negative People With a Smile and Positivity

Many times, people avoid discussing these problems as they believe in avoiding rather than fighting. Regardless, feeling stuck is an indication that a third party is needed to resolve the problem.

Grasp the Deeper Issue

Forget the visible, the fact is – most family problems are outwards signs of deep-rooted problems, knowing which can pave the way for greater empathy among family member.

Substance abuse

Alcohol and other substances are often used to escape from a difficult emotional situation like grief over bereavement, financial troubles, marital conflict, divorce, and the pain of illness or other problems. A therapist can help break down the deeper issues that lead to substance abuse and help recovery.

Leave behind anger and pride

Holding on to anger and pride feeds negative emotions, hampers empathy, thwarts open communication, is damaging to individual mental health and blocks the path to conflict resolution. Prioritize a happier relationship over being hurt or the fear of failure. Where a family problem exists, someone is already hurt, which makes the fear of being hurt again greater. But the potential for healing is real. Focusing on this potential and letting go of negative emotions opens the door to communication, healing and better mental health.

Get Help

Experts on marriage counselling for couples and families assert that therapy is for everyone, not reserved for the mentally sick or weak or those with emotional disorders. Being humans, we need other humans to help us work through problems and therapy provides a safe environment with a trained professional.

Therapists having expertise gained through professional training help you talk about and develop strategies to resolve difficult situations, without any risk of being judged or medicated.

Take Care of Yourself

While trying to solve family issues, taking care of yourself and maintaining good mental health is essential. Positive family dynamics start with a healthy self. Being healthy allows you to let go of negative emotions, which clears the way for open family communication to help the family focus on relationships.

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