Family Counseling

  • Families enter counseling for a number of reasons. Usually, there is an identified patient (an individual who is seen as the cause of trouble within the family structure) that family members use as their ticket of entry. Most family counseling practitioners do not view one member of a family as the problem but instead work with the whole family system.
  • Family counseling has expanded rapidly since the mid-1970s and encompasses many aspects of couples counseling. While a few family counselors are linearly based and work on cause-and-effect relationships, most are not. Family therapy deals with problems involving family structure and family interaction patterns. Many family therapists assume that family members fall into rigid roles – with one person “designated” as the scapegoat (i.e., as the “disturbed” family member). Majority operate form a general systems framework.


  • Improving communication between family members.
  • Deemphasize individual problems and emphasize joint problems of family.

The Concept of Communication in Family Therapy

  • Pathology develops with communication failure among family members.
  • Deals with relationship between individual member and family system.
  • Therapy works on correcting information or changing manner of feedback.
  • Ackerman believes that a constant interchange between client, family, and society gives better output.


  • To increase marital intimacy, to treat adolescent drug abusers, to treat anorexics, and to deal with bereavement issues after the death of some family member, conflict values in family, and significant marital problems, etc.
  • Individual person’s problems in family approach are considered secondary problems because focus is on joint problems faced by every member in family.
  • Began with an adolescent as principle patient.

Circular Causality Versus Linear Thinking

Family approaches stress the structural causality: the idea that events are related through a series of interacting feedback loops.

theory and practice of counseling  MARRIAGE & FAMILY COUNSELING:



Circular Causality


theory and practice of counseling  MARRIAGE & FAMILY COUNSELING:

Linear Causality

Concepts Related to Circular Causality


  • The family is greater than the sum of its parts. It indicates that it is necessary to see the patterns rather than the actions of any specific members alone.


  • Families that experience a natural disaster may become stronger or weaker as a result. Likewise, healthy families may have quite dissimilar backgrounds. Therefore, the focus of treatment is on interactional family patterns rather than particular conditions or events.


  • It is important to attend to the two functions of interpersonal messages: content (factual information), and relationship (how the message is to be conveyed).
  • Family rules:
  • A family’s functioning is based on explicit and implicit rules. Family rules provide expectations about roles and actions that govern family life. To help families change dysfunctional ways of working, family counselors have to help them define or expand rules under which they operate.


  • The ability of the family to modify its functioning to meet the changing demands of internal and external factors is known as morphogenesis. Instead of just talking, family members may need to try new ways of behaving.


  • Like biological organisms, families have a tendency to remain in a stable state of equilibrium unless otherwise forced to change. When a family member unbalances the family through his or her actions, other members quickly try to rectify the situation through negative feedback.Often, a genogram is constructed to help family members to detect intergenerational patterns of family functioning that have an impact on the present.

Different Forms of Family Therapy

  • Psychoanalytic Family Counseling
  • Behavioral Family Counseling
  • Structural Family Counseling
  • Strategic Family Counseling
  • Solution-focused Family Counseling

Psychodynamic Family Counseling

• As traditionally practiced, psychoanalysis concentrates on individuals rather than social systems such as family. However, it broke the tradition by working with intact families. An initial goal of psychodynamic family counseling is to change the personalities of the family members so they can work with one another in a healthy and productive way.

  • Object relations are internalized residues of early parent-child interactions. In dysfunctional families, object relations continue to exert a negative influence in present personal interpersonal relationships.
  • Psychodynamic family counselors concentrate on helping family members obtain insight and resolve family-of-origin conflicts or losses, eliminating distorted projections, reconstructing relationships, and promoting individual and family growth.

Structural Family Counseling

  • Structural family counseling is based on general system theory. In working with families, structural family counselors join with the family in a position of leadership. Counselors map within their mind the structure of the family and determine how it is stuck in a dysfunctional pattern. They then employ a number of techniques aimed at getting the family to change the way it operates.
  • Techniques:

Working within the family interaction:

One primary technique is to work with the family’s interaction. When family members repeat nonproductive sequences of behavior or demonstrate a detached or enmeshed position in the family structure, the counselor will rearrange the physical environment so they have to act in a different way.


Structural family counselors also use reframing, a technique that involves helping the family see its problem from a different and more positive perspective. For example, if a child is misbehaving, the behavior may be labeled as a naughty rather than crazy, so child’s behavior may be considered less pathological.

Strategic Family Counseling

• Strategic counselors take a systemic view of problem behavior and focus on the process rather than the content of dysfunctional interactions. They strive to resolve presenting problems and pay little attention to instilling insight.


  1. One technique is to prescribe the symptom.
  2. Original Homework assignments are to be completed between sessions.
  3. Overall treatment is short term and pragmatic.

Solution-focused Family Counseling

It traces its roots to the work of Milton Erickson (1954), particularly his utilization principle.

  • The essence of solution focused family counseling is that clients create problems because of their perceptions such as “I am depressed”. To treat and sove problems, concentration should be on some exceptional time when the person is not depressed.
  • Client families are directed toward solutions to situations that already exist in the exceptions

• One way of helping individuals change perspective (from concentrating on the negative to emphasizing the positive) is called miracle question. In this intervention clients are asked to imagine that the problem is already solved. What will happen in regard to their behavior? And how will they know that the problem is solved?

Varieties of Family Counseling

  • Conjoint Family Counseling
  • In its process entire family is seen by the counselor at the same time. Counselor assigns tasks and imparts direct instruction regarding human relationship. Satire (1967) sees counselor as the resource person and model of communication. Through clear, crisp communication and by assigning tasks to different members, counselor plays active role during therapy sessions.
  • Concurrent family counseling
  • In the process of concurrent family counseling one counselor sees all family but in individual sessions.
  • Collaborative family counseling

In collaborative family counseling each family member sees a different counselor. Then counselors collaborate and discuss family as a whole.

Career Counseling

Historical Perspective

• Systematic vocational guidance BY Frank Parsons.

He differentiates counseling from other similar helping professions.

He coined the term counselor and talked about 3 elements pertaining to career selection in his book “Choosing a Vocation”. These three elements are: traits of the individual, demands of the job, and the congruence between the both. He is known as the father of systematic vocational guidance. His conceptualization provided the basis for a major early theoretical approach, the trait-factor theory.

  • What used to be called vocational guidance at that time is now referred to as career counseling. In career counseling, all aspects of individual needs (including family, work and leisure) are recognized as integral parts.
  • Career counseling includes all counseling activities associated with career choices over a life span. Interchangeable terms are job, occupation and vocation but they refer to different job positions and activities of employment, but career is much broader.

Importance of Career Counseling (Crites, 1981)

Crites lists important aspects of career counseling which includes the following:

  • Career counseling can deal with the inner and outer world of individuals, whereas other counseling approaches deal only with internal events.
  • “Career counseling can be therapeutic.” Super (1957), Williams (1962), Williams and Hills (1962), Crites (1969), and Krumboltz (1994) have all found a positive correlation between career and personal adjustment.
  • ”Career counseling is more difficult than psychotherapy” Crites states that to be an effective career counselor a person must deal with both personal and work variables and must know how the two interact.

Career Counseling Theory

• A theory of career development can be defined as a conceptual system that identifies, describes, and interrelates important factors affecting lifelong human involvement with work.

Five major types (Herr & Cramer, 1984)

  1. The trait-factor approach
  2. Decision theory
  3. Situational approaches
  4. Psychological-personality based approach
  5. Developmental approach
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