top of page

What To Do When Family Counselling Doesn't Work

what to do when family counselling doesn't work

In the journey of healing and growth, families often turn to Family Counselling in Calgary, seeking understanding and resolution. These sessions are a beacon of hope for families in turmoil, offering a promise of understanding and conflict resolution. Yet, there are instances when family counselling sessions may not yield the results anticipated. It’s a situation that can leave families feeling frustrated and unsure of their next steps. If you find yourself at a crossroads, feeling uncertain about family therapy and questioning "What to do when family counselling doesn't work, rest assured there are alternative approaches and actionable steps you can take to navigate this challenging time.

Why Family Therapy May Not Work

Navigating family dynamics can be as complex and nuanced as the individuals within it. Family therapy offers a platform to unpack these intricacies, but the path to harmony isn't always linear. Understanding the inherent challenges that can arise during family counselling sessions is crucial for setting realistic goals and fostering a productive environment for change.

While it's common to encounter hurdles along the way, recognizing and addressing these obstacles can help families pivot toward more effective strategies and solutions. Let's delve into some of the common reasons why family therapy may not go as expected and consider how to navigate these roadblocks:

  • Mismatch with Family Counsellors: Every family unit is unique, and the therapeutic fit is paramount. Sometimes, the counselling approach or the counsellor's personality may clash with the family's dynamics. A mismatch can stem from various factors, such as differing values, communication styles, or therapeutic techniques, which can hinder the therapy's effectiveness. Finding a counsellor whose approach resonates with the family is a step towards creating a supportive and understanding therapeutic environment.

  • Unrealistic Expectations: Hope can be a double-edged sword in family therapy. While it's necessary for motivation and engagement, setting the bar unrealistically high can lead to disappointment. Expectations can stem from a belief that therapy will quickly resolve deep-seated issues or that all members will have the same level of insight and willingness to change. It's important to align expectations with the complex realities of human behaviour and relational patterns.

  • Lack of Participation: Engagement is the fuel that drives the therapeutic process. Progress can be stalled when one or more family members are reluctant or resistant to participate. Active and willing participation from all members is crucial for therapy to be effective, including being open to self-reflection, honest communication, and making a concerted effort to understand and support each other's perspectives.

What To Do When Family Counselling Doesn't Work: Adjust Expectations and Approaches

When families embark on the journey of therapy, they often come with hopes and a vision for healing and resolution. However, the therapeutic process can sometimes reveal that the initial goals need re-examination. It’s not uncommon for families to discover that what they hope to achieve from therapy may not align with what is actually beneficial or attainable. 

Adjusting these expectations is a critical step towards progress, as it aligns the family’s desires with the realities of therapeutic outcomes. Here are ways families and therapists can work together to recalibrate their approach:

  1. Open Dialogue with Your Therapist: A crucial first step is to foster an open dialogue with your therapist about the goals of therapy. If the original expectations are not met, it's important to voice your concerns and collaboratively explore the reasons behind this discrepancy. Your therapist can help in reassessing the objectives based on each family member's needs and the dynamics observed during sessions.

  2. Setting Incremental Goals: Instead of aiming for large, sweeping changes, it can be more productive to focus on small, incremental goals. This approach allows for achievable milestones that can lead to a greater sense of accomplishment and motivation among family members.

  3. Flexibility in Methods: Sometimes, a different therapeutic approach or technique to family therapy can make a significant difference. Whether it's incorporating more experiential activities, trying out a new communication strategy, or exploring individual therapy alongside family sessions, flexibility can open new pathways to understanding.

  4. Realignment of Individual and Family Goals: It's essential to understand how individual goals fit within the family context. Therapy can help realign these goals by facilitating discussions that acknowledge each person's aspirations while considering how they impact the family as a whole.

  5. Cultivating Patience and Persistence: Change takes time, especially when it involves deep-seated patterns and behaviours within a family. Cultivating patience and persistence is important, as is the willingness to try different approaches and persevere through setbacks.

  6. Celebrating Small Victories: Recognizing and celebrating progress, no matter how small, can reinforce positive change and encourage continued effort from all family members. It's these small victories that often lead to significant long-term change.

Seeking Individual Counselling

While family therapy focuses on the family unit as a whole, individual counselling zeroes in on personal growth and self-awareness, which can have a profound impact on family dynamics, for instance, if a family member is grappling with depression, anxiety, or past trauma, individual counselling can provide them with personalized strategies and support. 

As each person begins to heal and grow individually, they can bring a healthier self to family interactions, leading to improved communication and relationships within the family unit. Whether the issue is a personal struggle affecting the family or a desire to improve one’s role within the family dynamic, individual sessions can complement family therapy efforts and lead to a more holistic healing experience.

When to Consider Taking a Break

Sometimes, the best way forward is to step back. A pause in therapy can be a strategic decision that allows families to absorb the progress made, evaluate the effectiveness of therapy, and apply new skills independently. It's an opportunity to reassess personal and collective goals, gain clarity, and address any practical concerns like scheduling or finances. Consulting with your therapist about the timing and potential impact of a break ensures that this decision supports your family's journey toward well-being.

During this break, families are encouraged to practice the strategies learned in therapy and monitor any shifts in dynamics or individual behaviour. This period of reflection can reveal new insights and reinforce the family's ability to navigate challenges, paving the way for a more grounded and focused return to therapy if needed.

Family Counselling in Calgary

When family counselling sessions don't lead to the progress hoped for, it doesn't signify the end of the road for families seeking resolution and understanding. By exploring alternative approaches, adjusting expectations, and leveraging additional resources, families can find a path that leads to healing and growth. Remember, the journey toward improvement is ongoing, and it's okay to seek different avenues to support your family's unique needs.

At Flourish Psychological Services, we're dedicated to nurturing your family's journey toward a closer and more fulfilling connection. Embrace Family Counselling in Calgary with our warm and experienced therapists guiding the way. Get in touch with us — we're committed to supporting your family's journey with the understanding and clear communication that it deserves.


Recent Posts

See All


Thanks for subscribing!

bottom of page