Sunday, October 3, 2010

Is Family Counseling a Bad Idea?

Most step-parenting books I’ve read suggest seeing a counselor to work out any blended family issues. I’m not sure if that’s such great advice.

I’ve been to counseling myself for anxiety so I’m not saying that it’s without value. But the problem with family counseling is that you put your happiness in the hands of other people. You rely on your partner and his children to attend sessions, and you rely on them to participate and change their behavior accordingly.

The problem with this, of course, is that there’s nothing you can do if they refuse to go. You can nag, you can whine, but in the end you can’t force them to participate if they don’t want to. I’ve mentioned before that feeling helpless leads to depression. And ladies, feeling helpless and depressed will make you one miserable stepmother.

Instead of depending on others to help fix your problems, my suggestion is to be more proactive. Rather than asking a counselor to convince your stepchildren to treat you better, you need to simply start requiring them to treat you respectfully.

I say simply, but I know it’s not easy. This is where I would suggest going to counseling on your own. As Penelope Trunk mentioned this week on her blog Brazen Careerist, therapy is a great tool for self-discovery and personal development. A counselor can empower you with communication tools and provide support during stressful times. Not only that, a counselor can help you sort out any reasons why you may be having difficulty standing up for yourself. She can help you realize that, yes, you do deserve respect.

If family counseling works for you, great. But for the rest of us, I’d say try it once if your family will go but don’t stress too much if they won’t. What do you think?


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