Family Counselling BPS213

Study Family Counselling online

An advanced course in counselling, providing insight into supporting families in distress and techniques to help them.

A family is a group people who live together forming a social group. It usually consists of the parent(s) and their children, living together. The members of the group are usually related by marriage, blood or adoption. However, in modern society, there are many different variations of family, to represent the different ways that families and society have changed. Nevertheless, the family is still the basic unit within society.

The family may be nuclear or extended, it may be open or closed. There are also many different types of cultural and subcultural variations. Some people may be involved in polygamous relationships, others in polyamorous relationships, and yet others in GLBTIQ relationships. Family counsellors need to be aware of all kinds of different permutations.

Within the family unit, many different crises and problems can occur. The type of crisis that occurs can depend on many factors such as the family itself, where they are living, the time in which they are living, how religious they are, their class, education, and so on. In other words, there are many different factors that affect how a family cope with different situations and whether problems become crises.

 The main goal of family therapy is to encourage the adults in the family to resolve any issues they may have had as a result of their own family history, and to help them to rewrite their own emotional stories. Therefore, the therapist has to first identify the problems in an initial interview. The therapist will try to identify themes from the past of both adults. These themes may have been brought to the present family situation by one or both adults.

As such, the aim of the first session is to understand the problems in a historical context, begin to reframe the problems, develop a positive relationship between the partners, and to help each partner to identify the fact that themes from their families are affecting the problem and their ability to deal with the problem. They will also construct a genogram to help the family and the therapist to identify the key family members that are involved in the problem, and therefore those family members who may become involved in the therapy.

In this form of therapy, therefore, it is important that the therapist sees the whole family together from the beginning. If therapy begins with only part of the family it can create a dysfunctional triangle between the therapist, one member of the family and another, if certain members are missing.

  • This course aims to familiarise you with family dynamics, and develop skills to address problems that may arise within the family unit.

Suitable for -

Family Counselling is suitable for anyone working with or wanting to help families, such as:

  • Counsellors
  • Trainee Counsellors
  • Volunteers
  • Family Workers
  • Health and Well-being workers
  • Relationship and marriage support staff
  • Children and Family Workers
  • Teachers and Educational Staff
  • Foster Carers
  • Parents
  • Social Workers, and many more.

Lesson Content and Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Nature & Scope of Families
    • Different types of families
    • Traditional Family Structures
    • Family Systems
    • Cultural variations
    • Family Life cycles
  2. Family Dynamics
    • Crises
    • Changing cultures (immigrant families)
    • Evolving Structures (Religion, new siblings, departing siblings, changing parents, incoming grandparents)
    • Breakdowns
    • Merging two families
    • Abuse
    • Violence
    • Death
    • Illness
    • Changing location (losing friends etc.)
    • Changing income (loss of job etc.)
    • Disintegration & Reintegration
  3. History
    • How are dynamics different & similar today to in the past.
    • How did we cope with family problems in the past in different places, cultures etc.
    • What can we learn from this? How can we draw strength from knowing all this is not new?
  4. Identifying Problems
    • Patterns
    • Critical incidents
    • Long standing incidents
    • Common problems for families
    • Common problems for couples
  5. Support Structures
    • What support services might be accessed
    • Extended family
    • Community services
    • Social networks
    • Religion
    • Types of counselling, -individual, Group Work etc (incl. problems with Group work) etc.
  6. Approaches to Family Therapy I
  7. Approaches to Family Therapy II
  8. Conducting Initial Interviews/Sessions
  9. Considering Solutions
    • Determining Roles
    • Establishing Rules
  10. Case Study
    • Consider a situation establish & consider alternative strategies & select a strategy.

Duration:  100 hours

Course Aims 

  • Describe family diversity in terms of a variety of factors including structure and function.
  • Explain the interactions and motivations at work in different families.
  • Describe how we have dealt with family problems in the past; then evaluate the results of these past strategies, and learn from those results.
  • Determine precisely what problems exist in a family; and evaluate the relative significance of those different problems.
  • Identify and compare support options that may be available to a family with problems
  • Understand what is meant by a family systems approach to counselling and describe different theoretical perspectives.
  • Describe further theoretical approaches to family therapy and understand the usefulness of an integrated approach.
  • Plan the initial interview for a couple or for a family, in need of counselling.
  • Identify optional approaches for counselling a family or couple with problems.
  • Plan a program of counselling and if relevant, other strategies, to address a family or couple in crisis.
  • Breakdown and Loss Within Families 

    Family Breakdown

    The breakdown of families now occurs more regularly, leaving children to cope with the consequences of these changes in their family life. Sometimes parents remain friendly after breakdowns, but they can be acrimonious, leading to children feeling depressed, guilty, withdraw and alienated. Children will therefore require support to help them cope with the relationship breakdown. The child may feel upset and left out. Parents may wish to help children cope with the breakdown. However, sometimes parents may not recognise that their children are grieving, focussing too much on their own needs.

    Various factors affect how children cope with the breakdown of families, these include –

    • How the child is treated.
    • How adaptable the child is.
    • Divorce makes children feel insecure.
    • The reasons for the divorce.
    • The parents’ relationship before the divorce.

    Bereavement in Families

    When a family member dies children react differently from adults. Preschool children usually see death as temporary and reversible, a belief reinforced by cartoon characters that "die" and "come to life" again. Children may not understand the meaning of death until they are around three or four years old. Children between five and nine begin to think more like adults about death, yet they still believe it will never happen to them or anyone they know. However, they will still feel the loss and shock of close relatives in the same way as adults. Infants and children can grieve and feel great distress.
    However, they may have a different experience of time to that of adults, so may go through their stages of mourning more rapidly. In their early school years, children may feel responsible for the death of a close relative and may need to be reassured. They may not speak of their grief because they think they might be adding an extra burden to the adults around them. The grief of children and adolescents should not be overlooked when a member of the family dies. They should, if appropriate, be included in the funeral arrangements.

    Adding to a child's shock and confusion at the death of a brother, sister, or parent is the unavailability of other family members, who may be so shaken by grief that they are not able to cope with the normal responsibility of child care. However, death is not the only loss of a family member is not the only loss that children may face today. There may also be the death of friends of the same age, divorce, jail. Children will see on the television and via the internet, all the violent and terrible things that go on in the world. This will make them aware of death in a way that may not have been experienced by previous generations.

    Children naturally assume that the world is safe and full of kindness. They will try to answer questions, such as who am I? Why am I here? This safety can disappear if a child begins to feel that the world is not a nice place. Children may feel that adults may not be able to protect them. This may cause them to “act out” inappropriate behaviour, and older children might engage in self-destructive behaviours with drugs, sex or drinking etc. Not all children will respond in this way.

    Parents should be aware of normal childhood responses to a death in the family, as well as signs when a child is having difficulty coping with grief. According to child and adolescent psychiatrists, it is normal during the weeks following the death for some children to feel immediate grief or persist in the belief that the family member is still alive. However, long-term denial of the death or avoidance of grief can be emotionally unhealthy and can later lead to more severe problems. Once children accept the death, they are likely to display their feelings of sadness on and off over a long period of time, and often at unexpected moments. The surviving relatives should spend as much time as possible with the child, making it clear that the child has permission to show his or her feelings openly or freely.

    The person who has died was essential to the stability of the child's world, and anger is a natural reaction.

    The anger may be revealed in boisterous play, nightmares, irritability, or a variety of other behaviours. Often the child will show anger towards the surviving family members. Children may also temporarily revert to a previous stage of their development when they felt safer. After a parent dies, many children will act younger than they are. The child may temporarily become more infantile; demand food, attention and cuddling; and talk "baby talk."

    Younger children frequently believe they are the cause of what happens around them. A young child may believe a parent, grandparent, brother, or sister died because he or she had once "wished" the person dead when they were angry. The child feels guilty or blames him or herself because the wish "came true."

    When families breakdown due to divorce, separation or bereavement, it can have a range of effects on the children. Amato (1994) found that adults who had experienced a divorce in their childhood had more behavioural problems, less education, a lower standard of living, lower job status, lower psychological well being and a greater risk of being a single parent.

    Enrol now - and learn

    If you would like to help families in distress -

    • For personal reasons
    • For professional reasons to improve your knowledge
    • To gain professional development/CPD
    • For interest


    Then why not enrol now and get started; understanding more about families in distress and techniques to help them.

    If you have any questions, our counselling tutors are more than happy to help, you can contact us now by -

    Phone (International) +61 7 5562 1088 (in Australia) 07 5562 1088, or

    Email us at, or use our 


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    Fee Information (S3)
    Prices in Australian Dollars

    PlanAust. PriceOverseas Price
    A 1 x $834.96  1 x $759.05
    B 2 x $451.44  2 x $410.40

    Note: Australian prices include GST. 

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