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Impossible To Do Family Therapy?

by Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I’ve been diagnosed with depression for about two years or so now, but a lot of what brings me down is my family.

I attend school and work, so I live at home. My parents, especially my mother, always try to limit where I can go and do what. While I appreciate their advice on some things, it feels like a chore to ask to be able to try meeting new people or see new things without asking “permission” or trying to convince them to not try getting a sibling to tag along.

Speaking of which, my siblings are almost as bad. My sister moved out a couple years ago to marry some jerk, while my brother moved out recently and apparently accuses my parents of making me worse, although growing up with him, he made fun of me and has apparently forgotten. My other brother is not only still living at home and is on and off jobs, but his lazy girlfriend is here too. Before he used to be very industrious, but his girlfriend has gotten him into vices to the point where I think they both have addictions.

To top it off, I recently came out to my parents. They, and a few other friends are the only ones who know. My family in general have mixed feelings on depression (it is all my parents’ fault, a phase, attention seeking), and I’ve come to realize how homophobic most are, with the exception of one only because he’s never said anything of that nature.

I’ve suggested to my parents about taking the family to therapy. My mother gets so angry when I do, and my dad doesn’t make a clear-cut opinion. My parents have come with me maybe 3-4 times, and nothing has improved. People have suggested to just move out and let them be themselves, but I also think they should realize that they are a big part of my life, and should be more considerate, right? Am I just hoping for too much when I suggest therapy?

You may want your parents to think or to behave in a certain way but you can’t force them to. You have tried all that you can. You have suggested therapy. They went but now are refusing. It is likely a futile effort to continue to suggest therapy.

When people won’t change their behavior, then you must change yours. In your case, this may mean limiting your involvement or interaction with your parents. If they say hurtful things, then be around them less often. Perhaps you should also be less open with them about your thoughts, opinions and values. If your values no longer match theirs, then realize that continued discussion of controversial topics will likely lead to an argument. This may be the unfortunate reality. You may have to find a different way to interact with your parents.

To become a psychologically healthy adult one must become an independent thinker. In practical terms, this often means no longer automatically sharing the values or opinions of one’s family of origin. Independent thinkers form their own ideas about what is right and wrong for them. It is vitally important that you feel free to develop your own ideas. It’s not only okay to do so but it is necessary for your continued growth. There can be fallout associated with becoming an independent thinker. Sometimes the family of origin is offended by a new way of thinking. It can be seen as threatening and detrimental to the family. Not adopting the values of the family of origin can sometimes be viewed as a rejection of their values. Some family members become resentful and angry. It is possible that this is what is happening in your family situation.

If your family refuses therapy, then I would suggest individual counseling. In individual counseling you can learn a new way of interacting with your family. Since they won’t change, it is apparent that you’ll have to and counseling is the best way to learn these skills. Please take care. I wish you the best.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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