Mental Health


Mandy Kloppers

Family Counseling Versus Mental Health Counseling: Which Option Is Better?

You face different challenges every day. Even children and families suffer from mental health problems because of life’s struggles and uncertainties. When you feel burdened and can’t take it anymore, you may decide to seek counseling services.

But are you caught up between choosing family counseling and mental health counseling? Learn more about these two types of counseling to make a more informed decision toward better psychological health by reading this article.

Definition And How It Works

To better understand family and mental health counseling, it’s important to define these two terms first.

What Is Family Counseling

Family counseling is also called family therapy. Mayo Clinic defines family therapy as a form of psychotherapy or psychological counseling provided by a psychologist, psychiatrist, licensed therapist, or clinical social worker. It helps family members communicate and resolve conflicts more effectively.

Family counseling involves gathering all or selected family members in one room in the presence of a mental health expert. This psychotherapy is sometimes called ‘strength-based treatment’ because it views problems as adjustable systems or patterns instead of solely focusing on an individual’s role in the problem.

What Is Mental Health Counseling

Mental health counseling, on the other hand, is a form of individual psychotherapy that integrates problem-solving and traditional psychotherapy to modify emotional issues or behavioral problems.

Healthy Place defines mental health counseling as a formal, purposeful client-provider partnership based on sound research and proven-effective techniques. People seeking mental health counseling are brave enough to face the reality and stigma associated with professional psychological consultation.

Based on the definitions above, family counseling is more focused on the family as a unit, while mental health counseling focuses on the individual. Both types of psychotherapy aim to improve people’s mental health and well-being.

Facilities like Olympic Mental Health provide family and mental health counseling services. These mental health facilities have a team of experienced professionals who provide a supportive and safe environment for individuals, couples, teenagers, and families to navigate and resolve life’s struggles.

family counseling
happy family sitting on therapy session by female counselor writing in clipboard in office

Reasons For Seeking Family Or Mental Health Counseling

Now that you know how family and mental health counseling works, it’s time to look at the common reasons people seek these psychotherapy services.

Why Seek Family Counseling

The common reasons people seek family counseling include the following:

  • Child Problems

If your child has problems like bullying in school, family counseling may help. The same is true if your teenage child has an eating disorder or a substance abuse problem.

  • Major Life Changes

A recent move, natural calamity, new family member, or incarceration of a parent or sibling can cause mental turmoil in families. The same holds with the traumatic or sudden loss of a loved one. Family therapy may help families navigate their thoughts and emotions and establish healthier coping mechanisms to face major life changes more confidently.

  • Domestic Violence

When a home becomes a site of domestic violence, the family must consider seeking help from a mental health professional. The psychotherapist can refer families to legal professionals as necessary.

  • Parental Conflict Or Divorce

Families with parental conflicts or couples contemplating divorce may seek family counseling to better understand their problems, options, and decisions.

Why Seek Mental Health Counseling

People seek mental health counseling for a variety of reasons, such as the following:

  • Addiction

People turn to addiction as a way to cope with unresolved problems. Substance abuse involves getting addicted to tobacco, alcohol, or drugs. Other addictions include gambling and bingeing. A mental health professional may help identify the root cause, such as traumatic childhood experiences, and address the behavior problem.

  • Stress And Anxiety

Chronic stress, burnout, or anxiety can harm your psychological health and cause physical manifestations, such as weight loss or high blood pressure. If you’re struggling to cope with daily activities and feel your emotions or mental health condition affects your ability to complete tasks and make sound decisions, a therapist may help.

  • Grief And Loss

Each person has different coping strategies. When a loved one dies, some family members move on faster than others. If you have recently lost someone special and find yourself feeling lonely, crying most of the time, experiencing sleeplessness, and other negative manifestations, it may be time to seek mental health counseling.

As you can see, people seek family and mental health counseling for closely similar reasons. While this is the case, the psychotherapeutic technique or intervention differs depending on the client’s unique needs.

For instance, if you have a family member with alcoholism, a psychotherapist may help your loved one and your entire family deal with the problem. Your addictive family member may undergo mental health counseling or individual therapy. Meanwhile, other family members may attend a family counseling session to navigate their feelings about the problem and better understand how to support their loved one’s journey to sobriety.

Goals And Benefits

Many people may benefit from family counseling and mental health counseling. Here are the detailed goals and benefits of these counseling services.

Goals And Benefits Of Family Counseling

Families may greatly benefit from family counseling services. Learn more about the goals and benefits of family counseling below.

  • Establish And Maintain Healthy Family Boundaries

Family counseling helps families set and maintain limitations to respect each member’s personality, time, and privacy while showing support, love, care, and genuine concern amidst life’s challenges.

  • Improve Family Interaction

Family counseling aims to help families develop healthy interactions, allowing them to talk about family problems openly, without judgment.

  • Understand Family Dynamics

Each family is unique. Family counseling aims to better understand family dynamics, such as what makes family members worry, happy, sad, react, respond, or do in various situations and circumstances.

  • Build Empathy And Trust

Family counseling aims to restore trust, rapport, and genuine concern for all family members. That way, everybody can confidently express their emotions, thoughts, and problems.

  • Reduce Family Conflicts

Family counselors help families determine the cause of their problems and find possible solutions through different psychotherapeutic interventions.

Goals And Benefits Of Mental Health Counseling

Mental health counseling can help:

  • People Learn Effective Coping Skills

Mental health counselors can help clients adopt healthier ways to cope with psychological problems related to life’s challenges, such as losing a loved one, unemployment, financial problems, low self-esteem, interpersonal conflicts, and more.

  • Eliminate Negative Behaviors

Individual psychotherapy may help you realize your negative behaviors. A counselor can help you reduce or eliminate negative or unacceptable behaviors through psychological interventions, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

The goals and benefits of family and mental health counseling may overlap, depending on your individual psychological assessment.

Psychological Interventions And Techniques

Psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, and other mental health professionals offer different psychological interventions and techniques for family and mental health counseling based on their credentials, experience, and clients’ needs.

Family Counseling Interventions And Techniques 

Here are some examples of family counseling interventions and techniques:

  • Genogram

A genogram looks like a family tree. It’s a graphic representation of your family tree but with more information on family member relationships, especially emotional relationships. A family’s point of interest, values, diseases, living situations, and alliances can all affect emotional relationships. As a part of the family counseling intervention, the therapist and the family can work together using the genogram to uncover family history patterns that influence each member’s emotions and behaviors.

  • Mirroring Activity

Mirroring is a fun family activity, especially when young children are around. First, the psychotherapist may model this activity with one of the family members, and then the rest can take turns. Family members must give each other their full attention. They must communicate and cooperate verbally and use body language for positive results. By doing so, family members become more sensitive to each other’s needs.

  • Structural Family Therapy

Structural family therapy examines the family’s inner relationships, communication style, hierarchies, and boundaries to drive positive change. The therapist guides your family to discover alternatives to change problematic patterns positively.

Mental Health Counseling Interventions And Techniques

Here are some mental health counseling interventions and techniques:

  • CBT

One of the CBT principles is that mental health disorders involve information processing and learning mechanisms. New adaptive learning experiences may address maladaptive learning processes. Moreover, CBT may help you gain insights into healthier problem management. The therapist talks to you to help change how you perceive your problems, think, and behave.

  • Guided Imagery

This holistic, mind-body technique uses hypnotic images and positive words, often with a soothing music background, which can help an individual recover from addiction.

  • Interpersonal Counseling

This time-limited approach may help patients realize that environmental stressors cause psychological issues. The psychotherapist suggests ways for the patient to deal with situations or circumstances with self-efficacy.

Psychiatrists may diagnose and prescribe medications for anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric problems. Psychologists, psychotherapists, and other mental health professionals can provide assessment and supportive services.

Which Option Is Better

Reasons for seeking counseling, goals, benefits, and treatments may overlap in family and mental health counseling. Therefore, your choice between family and mental health counseling will depend on your unique needs. If your mental health and behaviors affect your family members and vice versa, consider family counseling to prevent having a dysfunctional family. On the other hand, if you need specialized, individualized psychiatric help, mental health counseling is advisable. Allow a mental health expert to assess your psychological health and provide personalized advice.