Family therapy recommendation

Can anyone recommend extremely skilled therapists for family therapy? We are a family of 4. The siblings have what feels to us to be an unusually difficult relationship (though there are good times, I’d say 80-90% of interactions are negative.) They are now in their teens and the interactions continue to devolve quickly and I believe are very damaging. I am concerned about how these patterns will play out in adulthood, both with each other and in future close relationships. One child is likely to be possibly open to family therapy, even if initially resistant, and at least try to have it be useful. Unfortunately I believe that the other child will not be, or will make it extremely difficult. (Past attempts at different kinds of therapy have shown this to be true as well as our experience-this is a child who is very closed off.) All 4 of us have, obviously, contributed to these patterns that started in toddlerhood. I believe we could use therapy as a family in addition to working individually sometimes. I think we’d need someone especially skilled - it will not be easy (and may be impossible?) to break through and make changes to these long-term negative patterns. If you have any really excellent recommendations, we’d be so appreciative. 

Parent Replies

Parents, want to reply to this question? Sign in to post.

My family recently had a good experience with Robert Terris in Berkeley famcmc [at] gmail.com (510) 684-2172. He is both MFT and JD and an experienced mediator, and he has teens of his own. My husband and I and our 21yo were seeing Robert because of failure to launch issues and parental disagreements about how to handle that.  I think Robert would be very good with your family's negativity and hostility issues. He is skilled at cutting through the BS, identifying the core issues, and keeping the focus on those. I appreciated that there is not a lot of rambling and hand-holding in the sessions. Robert is a quick study - within a couple of sessions he understood our family dynamic as well as our individual motivations. He's good at offering pragmatic suggestions. Just a few sessions with Robert definitely improved our family dynamic and moved us closer to a direction we could all agree on.

Regarding the problem of the kids not wanting to go to family therapy. Our 21 year old was already seeing his own therapist.  He only agreed to go to family therapy because he felt we parents were 95% at fault, and he thought we would benefit from seeing a therapist too.  We did spend time in our initial sessions examining ways that the parents are making things worse, ways we could be more effective, and that was very helpful. But once our discussions were more focused on the kid and actions he could take, he lost interest and stopped going. My husband and I are still checking in with Robert periodically and his insights are very helpful.

Dear Mom: 

    What about looking for a therapist who will come to your home? Possible that having the therapist in your home, would allay some of the resistance from your one child?  Also, if the resisting child is male...would it help to have a male therapist?  Teens, for example, can think that therapy is only for a 'sissy'. Lastly, if your child is doing marijuana,my own experience with it, with my son, is that it made him very VERY snarly.  Yes, THC helps many people, but for others it makes them paranoid ---and just downright mean--no matter the age.  (Sadly, it's being studied as one cause for a child to be born with autism.) ---- You have a tough road, but your asking for help is a huge step to health.  BTW: At some point, please consider therapy for yourself--alone.  We moms typically take the brunt of emotional injury in a family with challenges. 

I just wanted to let you know that I had quite a conflictual relationship with my brother until I left home (though perhaps not as bad as what you describe). Now, as adults, we are very close.

I'm a big believer in family therapy and have used it for other family dynamics (though don't have anyone to recommend, sorry), but in this case we never went to therapy, we just grew up! So don't give up hope.

Hi- I strongly recommend Stacy Outten for family and individual therapy. We have managed a similar situation and worked with lots of people- Stacy was the best at helping us identify and live up to our family - Ie what is acceptable/ what is not acceptable in the family while still being empathetic to everyone. Mostly it was my husband and I that made changes, as one child not meaningfully open to therapy. But it alerted us to the importance of acknowledging how difficult the conflict was for the less aggressive child. They are older now, and while not close they tolerate each other, and I think we all benefitted from the changes Stacy helped us to make. 

My heart is with you — family dynamics are really hard to address — it’s great that you are looking for help. We were in a similar dynamic and are forever indebted to Sheri Glucoft Wong for her professional and wondrously insightful work with us. 
if it’s ok, I’d like to guess (based on our experience) that your child’s reluctance to do therapy is based on an understandable experience of feeling blamed for the negative family dynamic. Sheri met with all of us briefly but then really focused on teaching me and my partner how to better parent our kids — just as they are. It took awhile for me to get on board, because I was really invested in changing my child’s attitude and behavior…. It sounds like you already recognize this pitfall, which is great! 
Best of luck to you, and feel free to contact me if you need/want

I'm so sorry your family dynamic is so challenging. While I don't have a recommendation for you, I would like to share that my situation when my children were that age was similar. We worked with many different therapists in many different configurations (individual, family, marriage). The problem for us was that without buy-in from each of us, therapy could not be effective, indeed it became further damaging, particularly when one therapist worked both with one of the children and the family as a whole. My situation devolved to the point where one of my children became physically violent with the other. Upon the advice of the therapist, he was sent to boarding school.

My children are now 20 and 22. They had only limited contact for almost three years, and have had virtually no contact for almost two years (their choice). During this time, my marriage dissolved. I have worked and continue to work hard in individual therapy and on strengthening my relationship with each of my children. They are aware of this. I am clear that I will speak with each of them about them, and not about the other, and it is up to them whether, when, and how they reconnect with their sibling. Neither of them are in therapy. Yet, with me, they are each beginning to express interest and concern for the other. I do believe they care about each other. I am hopeful that in time they will each address their own trauma and reconnect, on their terms.

My recommendation to you is to first get a therapist for yourself. You mention that patterns started in toddlerhood. Someone in the family has to begin the hard work of change, and it sounds like you are motivated to change. Then, find a family systems based family therapist who will work with the members of the family who are willing to engage. Knowing what I know now, I would not have pressured, required, demanded, or coerced my then spouse or children to attend therapy. If they are not open and willing, it's at best a waste of time and money and at worst further damages the relationships.

Family discord is hard stuff. It's rarely talked about openly. I wish you peace on this difficult journey.

I can recommend Coyote Coast in Orinda, https://www.coyotecoast.com/, who we worked with when our teen returned home from residential treatment. They focus on family dynamics in situations with very difficult teens, including families of teens coming home from wilderness therapy programs or residential treatment. They have a unique setup, providing family therapy concurrent with individual therapy for the teens. In addition, they are available by phone when needed, for example during a tough situation, so that they can help you through it in the moment rather than waiting for family therapy. The family therapy is focused on family dynamics. The teen individual therapy is more "walk and talk" style rather than in an office setting, with the therapist picking up the teen from their home and taking them to somewhere they feel comfortable, for example on a hike, or to a coffee shop.