Single mom, are you feeling stressed and overwhelmed?
Perhaps not surprising, studies find that single moms are twice as likely to be depressed and anxious than partnered moms. One study of nearly 7,000 mothers in Europe found that 30% of single mothers reported symptoms of depression or anxiety compared with just 14% of partnered mothers and 37% of single moms reported high parenting stress compared with 16% of partnered mothers.
Here is what you can do:
- How to find a therapist
- Cost of therapy
- Types of therapy
- Reviews of therapy services
- How do you know if your family needs family therapy?
Feeling that being a single mom makes you depressed and angry?
1. Practice self-care
Self-care means putting your own mental, spiritual, physical and social well-being before all else — filling your cup so you can serve others in your family, at work, in your community. Read this excellent post about self-care from therapist Elizabeth Cohen, PhD.
2. Take free mental health online courses
Coursera's free trial covers its Science of Well-Being course
- The Science of Well-Being, from a Yale professor, has been taken by more than 3 million people, and promises to teach skills that lead to more happiness and productivity.
- Mind Control: Managing Your Mental Health During COVID-19, which offers tools on how to combat anxiety and depression.
3. Get professional help
Professional help can range from hiring a coach, seeking counseling, group therapy, psychiatric care, or other trained experts that provide the help you need.
Individual therapy has proven to improve one’s mental health, relationships, quality of life, or other measures of wellbeing.
Working one-on-one with a professional allows you to receive their undivided attention throughout each session and personalized care and focused treatment for the duration of your relationship. You also get to set the pace for your conversations and your overall progress. Plus, you have some flexibility with scheduling appointments, based on just your therapist’s and your calendar. And you may be able to develop a stronger connection with your therapist, given the privacy of individual therapy.
If you are not sure if counseling is right for you, consider the advice of Heidi Vanderwerff, licensed independent clinical social worker, and co-owner of Kennedy Counseling Collective in Washington, D.C.:
“You should consider counseling if you aren’t functioning normally and all the self-care items that used to work for you, are no longer working,” Vanderwerff says. “If you aren’t sleeping well, feeling hopeless, noticing an increase in anger, and don’t have your usual amount of energy, counseling can provide new ways of viewing the things going on in your life, refresh self-care routines, and heal from any old hurts.”
How to find a therapist
OK, you're ready to try therapy. Where to start?
To find a counselor near you
- Ask a friend for a recommendation
- A local listing near you, including Yelp, Google and Psychologytoday.com
- Call a local counseling center
- Request a referral from your doctor, or through your health insurance
Online search for “find a therapist online”
You may prefer to seek a counselor in your community — for local, in-person sessions now for the short-term or permanently, or because you hope a counselor can help you connect with local mental health and community services.
If you find it complicated to find counseling services near you — or have to wait weeks or months to get an appointment — online counseling may be an excellent alternative. Remember, you can use both … starting with online counseling services for immediate help, and in-person local counseling at a later date, if you prefer.
Read our list of best online therapy sites, No. 1 of which is BetterHelp, based on my own experience with the app, as well as having the lowest fees, high scrutiny of counselors (only 15% of counselors who apply to BetterHelp are accepted), very low costs, and most transparent process for customer service. Check out BetterHelp now >>
Online therapy sites will also match you with a therapist. BetterHelp allows you to browse their therapist directory, or fill out criteria like gender, religion, sexual orientation, race and specialty focus areas, such as depression, trauma, divorce, family relationships, sexual abuse or eating disorders.
Note therapist's credentials, style, communication method, pricing, and whether your insurance will help pay for costs.
You may want to narrow your therapy search by the counselor's education and credentials. Briefly, here are the most common therapist designations:
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) or Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) depending on state — they tend to be more affordable than PhDs.
- (Licensed) Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT or MFT) specialize in working with couples and families.
- (Licensed) Mental Health Counselor (LMHC or MHC), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) or Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) depending on state.
- Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) is a Psychologist with have advanced education and the training to conduct neuropsychological testing.
- Ph.D. in Psychology — again, advanced education. Ph.D. training focuses more on research and teaching, while the Psy.D. education focuses on clinical interventions.
- Psychiatrists are medical doctors who can diagnose, treat and prescribe medicine for mental illness, though do not tend to provide psychotherapy. For lowest-price guarantee prescriptions for home delivery or in-store pickup, Blink Health has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating.
Note if you have a preference of age, gender, race or religion
Many people prefer therapists with similar demographic characteristics as their own – or complimentary. For example, a friend of mine who struggled her whole life from the death of her father when she was a young child intentionally sought out a male therapist in her mid-life after decades of working with female counselors. “All my daddy issues just came pouring out immediately,” she said.
Some online therapy platforms allow you to select from various characteristics. For example, when I used BetterHelp, I could choose the counselor's gender, race, whether thy were Christian or Jewish, LGBTQ, approximate age, and a wide range of specialties and experiences. This is very unique to online therapy, since the counselor pool is so vast, when compared to seeking services nearby.
Cost of therapy
In-person therapy can cost anywhere from $60 to $200 per hour or more. Sometimes health insurance or other employee benefits covers behavioral health services, though that is increasingly less common. Some community health centers, houses of worship or other local resources may offer reduced-price counseling.
Alternatively, check out our list of best online therapy sites. Our recommendation is BetterHelp, because of its low prices starting at $65/week for unlimited messaging and weekly live sessions, a Better Business Bureau rating of A+ and a very easy process to both switch therapists, as well as cancel. Financial assistance available. Use this link to get 10% off and get connected with a therapist immediately >>
Is there any free counseling? Seeking free mental health services?
You may find free or reduced-cost counseling near you at a community health center, through a local university's psychology department or other local resources. Some counselors offer a free phone consultation for new or prospective clients.
If you need mental health services and truly cannot afford therapy bills, here are some resources:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's helpline: 800-662-4357.
- Find local free resources via the National Alliance on Mental Health 24/7. Text to 741741.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255 or Live Online Chat
- If you are in crisis, you can call 911 or visit your local emergency room
- Veterans are entitled to free mental health services for a year after separation.
- Call or walk into any VA medical center.
- Call the VA at 877-222-8387
- Learn more about accessing VA mental health services
Sliding fee scales for therapy: Do I qualify?
Each therapist, clinic, therapy or counseling center or online therapy platform has its own policy about whether it offers a sliding fee scale, and what the qualifications are.
How does a sliding scale work? How are sliding scale fees calculated?
A sliding scale for a therapist can be considered based on criteria including thresholds for income, whether you are a student or senior citizen, if you are on TANF or Medicaid, or otherwise struggle financially. Ask your behavioral health provider about whether they have a sliding fee scale, and how to qualify.
Do I qualify for a sliding scale fee?
It helps to start with your therapist's website, but don't stop there — call and ask about any discounts, sliding scale, free trial session, as well as group therapy. Again, each therapy resource has its own criteria, and often considers clients' needs on a case-by-case basis.
Online therapy platform BetterHelp typically offers a 15% discount for those who feel they otherwise cannot afford therapy.
Where to find therapy
Our #1 pick for online counseling is BetterHelp, but you can read about all the top online therapy sites and apps in our post here. Your regular therapist, or a counselor near you, likely also offers online sessions.
Reviews of therapy services online
BetterHelp is my No. 1 best online therapy recommendation, not just because I use it personally, but also because
- 11,000 counselors, 100% are certified and licensed, and only 15% of applicants are accepted by BetterHelp
- Start working with your counselor within 24 hours
- A+ BBB rating
- Fees starting at $65/week
- Unlimited messaging
- All plans include weekly live video sessions
- Excellent app / technology
- Free ‘groupinar' group sessions
- 10% discount (no coupon required) for new clients
- Financial aid available to those who qualify
BetterHelp does not work with health insurers. BetterHelp does allow you to choose a counselor based on religion, race, gender, political leanings (conservative vs liberal), LGBTQ and specialty experience with various issues. Couples counseling is available.
You can read more about my own personal experience using the online counseling app in my BetterHelp review.
Talkspace and BetterHelp are the two largest online counseling platforms, and both are high quality, with A+ BBB ratings. Talkspace is more expensive than BetterHelp, but they do often work with health insurers.
Talkspace is app-based, while BetterHelp allows messaging and live sessions through both desktop and app — both of which are equally dynamic and up-to-date.
Like BetterHelp, TalkSpace allows you to remain anonymous with your therapist, opting for a nickname or a random username instead.
As of January, 2021, TalkSpace offers several subscription therapy services that start at $260 per month.
Couples therapy is also offered for $99 per week when billed monthly.
Neither Talkspace nor BetterHelp offers a free trial.
You also have the option to add on live video sessions to any plan for $65 per 30-minute session, or opt for a premium subscription that includes live sessions. By comparison, all of BetterHelp's subscriptions include weekly live sessions.
Learn more with our Talkspace review.
Online-Therapy.com is an online-based team of consultant therapists, cognitive behavioral therapists, practitioners and support staff that work together to help clients.
You will have full access to an online therapy program designed for your specific needs with easy-to-follow information and hands-on tools, your daily journal and activity plan, including daily contact with your therapist (Monday-Friday), tests to monitor your progress and access to the forum.
Online-therapy.com membership includes:
- An online, self-directed, 8-module Cognitive Behavioral Therapy course
- Worksheets — with daily feedback from your personal therapist
- Live chat, video or phone sessions with your personal certified and licensed therapist
- Action plan — where you add activities that bring meaning and joy to your life
- Meditation videos
- Yoga videos
Online-Therapy.com has a Better Business Bureau rating of A+ and prices that start at $39.95/week.
Read the Online-Therapy.com review.
4. MDLive Counseling
In 2014, MDLive, a leader in online medical care, bought online therapy giant Breakthrough. Today, the service is branded “MDLive Counseling.”
The site's process is different from its competitors. For starters, the therapy site doesn't pair you with a therapist.
Instead, you choose your own counselor by criteria like their location, what insurance they accept, or their specialties (anxiety, depression, family issues, etc.). Perfect for those of us who like a bit more control.
To sign up, pick a date and time that works for your schedule and your therapist either confirms the appointment or sends a “counteroffer” for a different date and time.
MDLive Counseling is available through phone calls or video chats using your computer or smartphone. Most states require an initial video assessment, but after that you can discuss whether phone or video are appropriate for your counseling needs.
As of January, 2021, MDLive Counseling costs $108 per session for therapists, $284 for a first psychiatrist session, and $108 for follow-up sessions.
MDLive has an A- rating with the Better Business Bureau.
MDLIVE Counseling reviews
Here are some recent reviews from MDLive Counseling from TrustPilot. The online telehealth and online therapy industry saw a huge influx of new clients during the Covid-19 pandemic.
5. ReGain: Online couples counseling review
Whether you are working on your first, second or third marriage, another romantic relationship, or trying to improve your co-parenting relationship with your child's other parent, online relationship therapy can be an affordable, convenient, and productive tool.
Bonus: You don't have to be in the same room with the person, since you communicate with the counselor via chat, text, email, voice or video!
If your relationship is in trouble, couples counseling could be the answer. Enter ReGain, an online platform that helps couples find counselors to help them get their relationships back on track — or save it.
ReGain is a sister site to BetterHelp, our favorite online therapy source, which earned an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
ReGain starts at $65 a week for unlimited messaging and one weekly live video or phone session.
6. 7 Cups
7 Cups was originally named “7 Cups of Tea,” referring to a Chinese poem that celebrates tea as a means to tranquility. 7 Cups is unique among online therapy sites.
7 Cups offers free 24/7 connections with “active listeners” as well as paid online messaging with licensed professional therapists.
According to the 7 Cups website, it is an “online emotional support service.” Its active listeners are volunteers who've been trained to listen deeply and to reflect what you're saying when offering feedback, to let you know that you're being heard — all through an easy-to-use chat thread platform.
You can connect with an active listener at any time, day or night. The live chats are anonymous and private. No one will know it's you, and no one except the active listener will be privy to the conversation. This service is 100% free.
It's easy to create a free account at 7 Cups, and to get in touch with an active listener. You ask, and within a short time (sometimes literally seconds), a listener will “pick up” and begin the e-chat.
If you want therapy with a professional rather than simply active listening, you'll be matched with one of 300 counselors (or allowed to pick your own, from the 7 Cups therapist directory) and given a private chat room. From there you can message the therapist as often as you want, though counselors respond once or twice each day, and only Monday through Friday. This service costs $150/month..
7 Cups does not offer live text, video or phone therapy options.
Read more in our 7 Cups online therapy review
7. Faithful Counseling
Faithful Counseling brings together licensed therapists who are practicing Christians and clients who are seeking faith-based mental health care.
“By combining Biblical wisdom with clinical expertise in mental health, our counselors do their best to invite God into the conversation and formulate actionable plans that best address the unique challenges their clients face,” the website states.
Faithful Counseling clients can access both pre-scheduled sessions with their therapist as well as have unlimited messaging with counselors any time they are available. You can also pick your preferred method of discussion for each session, either by phone, video call, or messaging. Because of the unlimited contact, costs for Faithful Counseling can be much lower than a traditional, per-session charge.
Faithful Counseling is one of the services offered under the umbrella company BetterHelp, which has an A+ Better Business Bureau rating.
8. Teen Counseling
Teen Counseling is an online therapy platform to help meet the mental and emotional needs of teens aged 13 to 19.
The site also caters to parents, with parents or guardians having access to the same therapist (though the discussions are confidential at all times, unless the therapist has a concern about serious risk). Each can have unlimited contact with the counselor, via whatever digital method is preferred: video call, phone call, or messaging.
Teen Counseling is aimed at teens ages 13 to 19, though either a parent/guardian or a teen can initiate the sign-up process. The online counseling for teens website has an A+ rating through the Better Business Bureau, via its parent company BetterHelp.
9. Pride Counseling
Help should always be accessible to anyone who needs it.
The LGBTQ community members suffer from mental health challenges at a twice the rate of the general population — with suicide rates at twice that of straight people, and nearly half of transgender adults attempting suicide within the past 12 months, compared with just 4% of the general public, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness.
Additionally, depression, anxiety and PTSD are experienced at a much higher rate among those who identify as LGBTQ. Pride Counseling set out to be a catalyst to getting the help to those who need it with LGBTQ therapists.
Pride Counseling does offer financial assistance. Otherwise, rates start at $65 per week for unlimited messaging and weekly sessions, no coupon code required.
9. My Online Therapy
My Online Therapy is a popular service based in the United Kingdom. Psychologists found on the site specialize in one (or more) of 13 therapies, including:
- Acceptance & Commitment Therapy
- Cognitive Analytic Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Couples Therapy
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy
- Dynamic Interpersonal Therapy
- Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing Therapy
- Mentalization Based Therapy
- Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy
- Narrative Therapy
- Psychodynamic Therapy
- Schema Therapy
- Systemic Therapy
My Online Therapy: Online therapy review
My Online Therapy works simply: When you create an account on the website, you will be required to answer a series of questions that are designed to help the site match you with the best possible therapists for your needs.
Once you have chosen a therapist, you can then book an appointment directly through the website. My Online Therapy offers two formats of therapy: Video and live chat. Video appointments can be 30 minutes long or 50 minutes long, and live chat appointments will be 30 minutes long.
The site is popular, with a 4.7-star score on Trustpilot based on more than 90 reviews.
Does My Online Therapy offer free online therapy?
No, My Online Therapy is a paid therapy service and does not offer free treatment.
Does My Online Therapy have an app for online therapy?
Yes, a My Online Therapy app exists for both Android and Apple Devices.
How much does online therapy cost with My Online Therapy?
The cost varies depending on which format you choose and the length of your session. Video appointments cost £49 for a 30-minute appointment and £99 for a 50-minute appointment. Live chat appointments cost £49 and are only available for 30-minute time slots.
Daily coaching services are also available for £75 per week, which allow you to message your therapist anytime without an appointment.
Appointments can be cancelled without penalty with 48 hours’ notice, but any appointment cancelled with less notice will result in a full charge.
Does my insurance cover online therapy with My Online Therapy?
My Online Therapy accepts private insurance for video sessions, but does not accept private insurance for live-chat sessions. Because the company is based in the UK, the specific insurance plans which are accepted may not include popular U.S.-based plans.
How to find a therapist with My Online Therapy
- Go to MyOnlineTherapist.com or download the app to create an account
- Answer an introductory questionnaire designed to help the service understand your needs and match you with qualified therapists.
- Select a therapist, and book your first appointment.
- Decide if you would like to continue with this therapist or choose a different professional.
While TherapyTribe does not directly offer therapy services to its users, it does offer users multiple ways of connecting with therapists for treatment, including for online therapy.
TherapyTribe: Online therapy review
TherapyTribe is an online directory that allows users to find therapists that are either in their area or that are available for online therapy.
In addition to acting as a directory, the site also allows users to become members of what it calls “tribes”—online support groups for users facing specific challenges. Tribes exist around subjects including addiction, anxiety, depression, HIV and Aids, LGBTQ+, marriage and family issues, OCD, and teen issues.
According to the site, there are currently more than 124,000 “tribe members” who take part in their peer-to-peer support groups.
Does TherapyTribe offer free online therapy?
As an online directory, TherapyTribe does not offer therapy directly to its users. As such, it does not offer free online therapy. That being said, users can opt into free peer-to-peer support groups known as tribes in order to connect with others.
Does TherapyTribe have an app for online therapy?
TherapyTribe does not offer an app. Instead, it connects its users with therapists who offer their services either in person or online through their own apps.
How much does online therapy cost with TherapyTribe?
TherapyTribe is completely free for users. This means that you can use the site to find a therapist, learn more about mental health, or join a tribe and connect with others who are facing similar mental health concerns as you, all at no cost.
If you choose to pursue therapy with one of the therapists listed in the directory, then the cost will depend on that individual therapist’s rates.
Instead of charging its users, TherapyTribe makes money by providing marketing services to its member therapists. This includes listing in the directory, as well as website and design services.
Does my insurance cover online therapy with TherapyTribe?
Because TherapyTribe does not directly offer therapy services, they do not accept private insurance. Individual therapists listed in the directory may accept private insurance, but some do not. In choosing a therapist, you will need to select one that accepts your insurance.
How to find a therapist with TherapyTribe
Finding a therapist through TherapyTribe is easy. Simply visit TherapyTribe.com and search the directory. You can search for therapists close to you by entering your location (narrowed down by city, state, or country), or you can search for online therapists specifically. You can also search for therapists by specialty.
How does online counseling work?
Many therapists you might find “near me” offer online counseling via Zoom, FaceTime or Skype — especially during the coronavirus quarantines. Ask your counselor if they offer online counseling, whether for the occasional session when you are traveling, or for your own ongoing convenience.
Otherwise, counseling from the online platforms typically involves creating an account, being assigned a counselor, and working with him or her via chat/messaging, phone or video sessions — not unlike traditional therapy as you know it. Some counseling apps also have group sessions, online education and other virtual tools.
Is online counseling effective?
There are troves of data that find that behavioral health counseling is effective, and a growing body of research that finds that online counseling is effective. The key is to find a counselor that you trust, connect with and will support you to make changes you need and desire.
How do you know if you need therapy?
Why do you need therapy?
In short: You need counseling if you want to go to counseling. A skilled professional counselor can help you better understand yourself, build more meaningful relationships in your life, and find deeper happiness.
If you are struggling with serious issues like addiction, eating or sleep disruptions, abuse, withdrawal from daily life, feeling numb, delusional or suicidal thoughts, definitely seek out professional counseling, says Michelle Pargman, a licensed clinical mental health counselor in Jacksonville, Fla.
“However, there is no problem too big or too small to seek out therapy,” Pargman says. “You don’t have to wait for a crisis, or for a time that it gets ‘bad enough.' If someone feels that they prefer not to ‘burden' friends/family and they simply are looking for an outlet, that is a perfectly fine reason to seek therapy.”
Types of therapy: What kind of therapy do I need?
In a Vox article, psychologist Juli Fraga makes these recommendations for types of mental health therapy:
If you’re dealing with break-up grief consider meaning-centered therapy.
If you’re dealing with depression, consider accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy (AEDP), or mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.
If you’re dealing with childhood trauma, consider expressive arts therapy or EMDR.
If you’re dealing with anxiety, consider cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or psychoanalysis.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a popular approach to treating depression, sleeplessness, family drama, substance abuse, stress, anxiety, relationship problems. Instead of delving deep into your past, CBT focuses on your current life, and works to change your perceptions and behaviors now.
A Boston University study found that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective in treating mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders, among others.
All the online therapy sites reviewed above offer cognitive behavioral therapy.
A Boston University study found that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective in treating mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders, among others.
CBT and other types of therapy can be used in partnership with prescription drugs, or pharmacotherapy. If your therapist or a medical doctor or psychiatrist writes you a prescription, there are online pharmacy options that are safe and affordable. Blink Health offers a price-match guarantee, in-store pick up or home delivery, and an A+ Better Business Bureau rating.
The basis of Adlerian therapy is that each of us have a strong desire to be part of and connect deeply with a larger community — innate feelings that can be used to propel each of us to greater success. This therapy examines birth order, social factors and your parents’ influence on you. Ultimately, you’ll be encouraged to develop new thoughts on your personal situation.
Research has supported the use of Adlerian therapy to facilitate positive changes, a University of Boise study showed.
Adlerian therapy can help you gain a sense of belonging, and can include play therapy for adults as well as children, a University of Northern Iowa study found.
In art therapy, you’ll create and review pieces of art to explore your emotions, boost self-esteem and become more self-aware. It is ideal for those who want to improve their overall level of function.
Art therapy can include playing or listening to music, evaluating or viewing visual arts, participating or watching movement-based creative expression, and reading or writing. A Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine study says playing or listening to music, viewing artwork, creating visual art, participating or watching movement-based creative expression, and reading and writing are effective forms of art therapy.
Art therapy is useful for stress reduction in various age groups as well as alleviating mental health issues, and can help professionals avoid and respond to burnout, according to research from the University of Haifa.
Not all therapy involves looking back to evaluate your childhood. Gestalt therapists believe that people want to find solutions to their own problems. A Gestalt therapist will guide you to understand what's happening in your present life — opposed to what you perceive to be happening based on past experiences.
A study out of the University of Florence found that research on the effectiveness of Gestalt therapy is lacking. However, practitioners argue that Gestalt therapy can help you recognize negative thought patterns. What you know, you can change.
Jungian therapy involves exploring your mind using activities such as word association, journaling or dream interpretation. Founder Carl Jung believed that repressed memories and experiences, along with our collective unconscious, impact our emotional health.
A report out of the Catholic University of Applied Sciences found that Jungian therapy can enable patients to ease clinical symptoms of mental health disorders (and overall mental health challenges) enough to be able to discuss their psychological health objectively.
Benefits of Jungian therapy include relief from everything from depression to addiction.
Also known as Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), this therapy uses mind mapping or art therapy to guide you in coming up with solutions to mental health conditions as well as overall challenges.
A report out of Case Western Reserve University found solution-focused therapy requires fewer sessions than other forms of therapy.
Group therapy is when one or more therapists work with a group of people at the same time in a collaborative effort to support and improve each individual’s wellbeing. Typically, the group members have shared experiences and/or similar issues, but some groups may have diverse backgrounds or concerns.
The size of the group may vary, depending on the type of therapy and the strategy of the therapist, though in general, according to the American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA), groups of five to 10 are typical.
A decade ago I found myself in a unique, dramatic situation that none of my friends or family understood: My young, healthy husband fell off a cliff and suffered a traumatic brain injury and PTSD, and his personality and mood changes rendered him an altered person.
After months of my own trauma, grief and loneliness of being in a very unique situation as a young mom with an impaired husband, I found a support group for loved ones of those suffering from TBI. That monthly support group changed my life, and I have since extolled the benefits of group therapy to others in difficult situations.
For me personally, the advantages of group therapy include:
- Immediate comfort in knowing I was not alone, or crazy, or at fault
- Being challenged to address my own lack of boundaries
- Humility in sharing my experience with others of all kinds of backgrounds and personal experiences of their own
- Practical advice and tools
- Long-standing friendships that grew out of the bonds formed in those sessions. I am still in touch with two friends from my group therapy today.
This post outlines frequently asked questions about group therapy, and where to find group counseling sessions to meet your needs.
Psychoeducation is the practice of educating a person with a mental health condition on their challenges, so they can better manage their diagnosis and prognosis. Psychoeducation typically applies to people with diagnosable mental health illnesses, such as schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder, psychoeducation is can be applied to all kinds of behavioral health. For example, my therapist helped me understand why I could feel so anxious in a romantic relationship by explaining the brain's reaction to real and perceived threats (in my case: fear of being hurt and being abandoned, based on my own past experiences).
Studies have found that psychoeducation is effective in getting patients to be compliant with taking medication, including one study in Germany that found that schizophrenia patients who received education about their condition were more compliant with their medication, and spent fewer days in in-patient care.
Psychoeducation can include a therapist educating a client on their condition, a psychiatrist explaining how medication interacts with the body and brain, education for family members of those afflicted with mental health or behavioral health challenges, as well as classroom information for children with behavioral issues.
Psychoeducation can also include formal classes, psychoeducational groups, online support groups and self-help groups.
How do you know if your family needs family therapy?
Since 1970, the number of marriage and family therapists in the country has grown 50-fold. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes more than 42,000 family and marriage therapists exist in its most recent data, from 2017.
For children’s behavioral problems, family therapy has been shown to be effective, demonstrated by a review of more than 20 analyses of systemic family therapy interventions. The review showed that on average, families who visited a counselor fared 71% better after therapy and at follow up than their peers in control groups.
In both children and adults, systemic therapy has been shown to be effective in helping with more than 72 scenarios, according to a report examining studies by The Association for Family Therapy and Systemic Practice. The report reviewed dozens of studies, concluding that family and couples therapy have a positive effect on mood disorders, eating disorders, problems with couple relationships, substance abuse, depression, and family strife, among many others.
What is family therapy?
Family therapy is a type of psychological counseling aimed at improving family communication, resolving conflicts, and creating a better understanding between family members.
Family counseling sessions are therapy led by a psychologist, licensed therapist, or clinical social worker, all using a variety of techniques to both understand the situation and provide guidance. They will have a master’s or doctoral degree, and may also be accredited by the America Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).
Marriage and family therapists regularly practice short-term therapy with an average of 12 sessions, according to the AAMFT.
What is the purpose of family therapy?
The cracks in family relationships can cause distress, rising tensions, and conflict. Sometimes the challenges arise from a family member in an intense situation, such as substance abuse, financial crisis, divorce, or mental health problems. In family therapy, a counselor will become familiar with any existing patterns or pre-established systems within a family, not focusing on only one person’s role. They will then provide thoughts to help family members understand how they’ve been functioning and offer ideas to modify behaviors or patterns.
If your family is walking through some challenges such as:
- Out-of-control child behavior
- Recovering from the trauma of a serious illness
- Emotional overload from anxiety
- Sexual abuse
- Living through a divorce
You may find yourselves in a pattern that’s leaving you frustrated and angry. Family therapy can help you pinpoint specific causes and challenges and clearly lay out positive and negative ways you’re dealing with it — as individuals and as a group.
In family counseling, you can collectively learn new ways to interact with each other and overcome unhealthy patterns. Together you can set goals and work to achieve them.
In family counseling sessions, a therapist can help a family manage:
- Mental illness
- Poor communication
- Ongoing relationship frustrations
- Children struggling to stay focused in school
- Problems with children’s social interactions
- Substance abuse effects
- Child outbursts
- Parenting disagreements
- Chronic health problems
- Child and teenage behaviors
- Tension between family generations
- Navigating a blended family
- Emotional disorders
- Grief and loss
- Eating disorders
- Emotional abuse or violence
Family relationships are an important part of psychological health, and help to shape your well-being throughout your life, according to a study, which defines well being as impacting happiness, physical health, satisfaction with life, and good mental health. Marriages of high quality are associated with lower levels of stress and depression, according to a study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.
What are the goals of family therapy?
Going to a counselor as a family can have many different types of goals, including:
- Improved communication
- Reduced conflict
- Working through financial challenges
- Develop healthy boundaries
- Better problem solving
- Better two-way empathy
- Reduced tension and frustration
Other goals can be even more specific, such as navigating divorce, managing addiction as a family, or supporting a teenager struggling with self-harm or depression. In some cases, you might seek out counseling because of challenges woven throughout your family, but in other cases, it may be an issue one person is facing.
What are the different types and techniques used in family therapy?
Family counselors will use a few different types of therapy approaches, depending on the family’s goals and reasons for pursuing family therapy.
Supportive family therapy
This is a method to help each person express their feelings surrounding a problem that affects the family. The goal of this method is to provide a safe and open environment, so everyone can honestly discuss issues. The therapist then offers practical tactics to use to work through the issue at hand.
CBT involves the counselor supporting a change in the ways family members think or behave in certain scenarios. By bringing awareness to these patterns, family members can then change their thoughts and behaviors.
Transgenerational therapy addresses how each family member interacts with one another across multiple generations. These observations will help the therapist understand the core issues that are challenging the group right now, as well as future tensions that may arise.
Structural family therapy
This technique evaluates the dynamics of the family, including relationships, patterns, and behaviors during each session. Counselors can examine the subsets within the family system, such as relationships between parents and siblings, or siblings with each other. The evaluation helps guide the advice offered by the therapist.
Systemic family therapy
Systemic family therapy focuses on the feelings of the family. The counselor will work to identify pervasive ideas and attitudes shown on behalf of the family, which will help them uncover the underlying issues within the family. Then, the therapist will work to shift attitudes and relationships to a more beneficial and more realistic place.
Psychodynamic family therapy
This theory emphasizes the presence of the unconscious mind of each individual family member, and seeks to help family members understand and change family dynamics based on a better understanding of their own unconscious. The counselor will work to reduce conflict by identifying underlying issues, and helping family members see, and change, their personal contributions to the family’s conflict.
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Functional family therapy
Functional Family Therapy is an intensive, short term intervention/prevention program of in-home family counseling, that is often used to refers 11 to 18-year-olds by juvenile justice programs. FFT has been used since the 1970s, and addresses status-offending issues like curfew violations, running away, and truancy. FFT assesses family dynamics that contribute to the teen's behavior, addresses strained family communication, improves parenting skills, and aims to change behavior, relationships and long-term outcomes.
Reunification therapy is often used in families struggling with parental alienation, in which one parent in a high-conflict divorce turns the children against the other parent. Other times, reunification therapy is employed when one parent is estranged, or the relationship very strained, or a child is having trouble adjusting to a new parenting schedule after a divorce or breakup.
What are the advantages of family therapy?
Attending family therapy sessions can help you explore the different roles each family member fulfills, as well as behavior patterns and issues that may be contributing to conflict or poor communication.
A key result of family counseling is to learn the right tools to work through issues you may be facing.
In family therapy sessions, the counselor will work to help the family identify their strengths — of both individuals and the family unit as a whole — such as how they care for each other, as well as weaknesses that can be improved upon, such as difficulty trusting each other.
Family therapy sessions can help you work through situations causing stress, grief, and anger.
What are the disadvantages of family therapy?
With several individuals attending sessions, it may not always be a low-cost option.
Sometimes, a family approach may come at the cost of an individual’s needs, as “for the good of the whole” advice may not provide the right path for every individual, depending on the scenario, according to a study published in Psychology Today. Confidentiality is lost in a family session as well, according to the study, which may be concerning to attendees.
When should you seek family therapy?
If you’re finding communication in your family at a standstill, tensions rising, frustrations boiling, or intense issues getting worse instead of better, it may be wise to seek out family therapy.
What questions should I ask my family therapist?
Before you begin in family therapy sessions, you can ask your therapist several questions to help you better understand the process and their qualifications:
- What is your education and training background?
- Are you licensed to provide therapy in your state?
- What is your experience with my family’s specific challenges?
- Are you available during emergencies or on short notice?
- How long is each session?
- How much does each session cost, and are we covered by insurance?
- What is their policy for canceled sessions?
Seeking family counseling near me? Consider online options instead
The ease and convenience of scheduling a therapy appointment online can benefit a family with schedules hard to align.It can also be more convenient as you can use almost any device to video chat, call, or text with a therapist. Studies find that online therapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy.