But if there’s anything worth giving up for the sake of your family, it’s an ego.
Therapy gets a bad rep. For a lot of people, seeking professional mental health help is a hit to their pride. But if there’s anything worth giving up for the sake of your family, it’s an ego. While seeing a therapist or counselor takes resources like time and money, our family has found innumerable benefits from both individual and group counseling. Unlike confiding in friends and other family members, a counselor is an outside individual that is there to check your blind spots. All of us have interpersonal and self-care issues that we struggle to overcome alone.

Why Do Step-Families Need It The Most?

I wouldn’t say stepfamilies need it more than others. In my experience, I’d say all of us could benefit from a session with a well-educated counselor. Stepfamilies have a particular type of hurdle that others don’t. Each step-family is comprised of at least one family of divorce. Many are comprised of two families of divorce.

In an article about divorce in Psychology today, Dr. Stephen Johnson, Ph.D. discusses his research the way divorce affects young people. He “found that 29% of boys and 39% of girls who reported that their parents had separated or divorced had high levels of posttraumatic stress.” Dr. Frank Ochberg, MD suggested that the median time to find recovery from posttraumatic stress is 3-5 years of regular therapy including lifestyle changes and professional help. Stepfamilies, in order to solidify in both longevity and health, need to confront the past issues they bring to the table.

The Pros and Cons of Group Therapy

As a teenager, my parent’s utilized group and individual therapy a lot and it didn’t always go as planned. I remember a scenario where I shared a secret I had been keeping for another member of the family in a group therapy session. While in the short term, it caused a painful backlash in my relationship with that family member, it resulted in a growth of trust between me and step-dad. It also helped me solidify my mother and step-father as a unit in my mind. Our counselor at the time provided an emotionally safe place to dig up the deep and not-so-deep issues that plague any family.  My greatest advice and I’d say my siblings agree though I have not formally consulted them, is that it’s important that individual and group therapists are different individuals. This allows you to respect their unique relationship and helps the entire group participate without favoritism, real or imagined.

There Are So Many Counselors, How Do I Choose?

Modern psychology is has a wealth of styles to fit any lifestyle though some bear more academic weight than others. Here’s a short list of some types of therapists you might consider.

  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) is a therapist that has completed a master’s degree, a licensing test, and at least 3,000 hours of supervised work. They are trained to help individuals, families, and groups with psychological or relational issues.
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) is a therapist that has a similar background to an LMFT but are also trained to understand social and government programs that might be available to their clients.
  • Clinical Psychologists (Ph.D. or Psy.D) are a type of therapist with additional and specialized education (a doctorate). They are certified to administer psychological testing in addition to one on one or group. While LMFT and LCSW get an education and training about specific treatments that have been researched and work well for different people (these are called “evidence-based”), clinical psychologists tend to use these evidence-based treatments in their regular practice.
  • Pastoral Counseling is counseling performed by a pastor or leader within a church using the Bible or religious text. Some states require pastors receive a license in order to perform counseling but this varies from state to state. Most churches do require pastors to receive training in biblical counseling during their time in seminary.

When you choose a family therapist, you’re choosing a champion for your stepfamily’s success. Try to find someone who aligns with your family values and lifestyle. And go into your first session with an open mind.

Do you have a question about choosing a therapist? Tell us about it!

Interested in more articles like this? Check out “8 Signs You Need Counseling” on Poema Chronicles.