‘Family counselling’ is defined in the Family Law Act as a process in which a family counsellor helps one or more people to deal with personal or interpersonal issues relating to marriage, separation or divorce, including issues relating to the care of children.
A relationship breakdown is a sad time for everyone involved. In many ways it is like a death. It is natural to have strong feelings and grieve the end of your relationship or marriage. You will go through the same emotional phases of grief as associated with death: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Divorce is an emotional event with legal consequences. It is important to recognise that the emotional part of a divorce is perhaps more important than the legal aspect. Your lawyer can help you understand the law relating to the financial and parenting issues that arise as you navigate the separation process, but they are not qualified to give advice about personal or interpersonal issues or issues relating to the care of children. If your lawyer presents a case in a way that aligns with social science literature, they are complying with their best practice of family law professional obligation and are likely to be consistent with the paramount principle of the best interests of the child.
Effective counselling involves collaborative discussions between the counsellor and their client in a supportive and confidential environment aimed at arriving at an account or accounts of problems for the purpose of assisting the client to reach a point at which the problems:
- No longer exist;
- Are transformed into opportunities and/or better management of self, relationships or the wider environment; or
- Continue, but in less debilitating, more manageable form.
The key elements of this definition are:
- Collaborative discussions that are relational rather than advisory to allow the client to understand the problems and address them;
- The development and maintenance of a trusting relationship between client and counsellor.
- Provision of a supportive environment is based on recognising:
- Unconditional positive regard for the client is a fundamental building block of the counsellor/ client relationship;
- That making attitudinal and behavioural changes is usually experienced as a challenging process;
- Counsellors must “earn the right” to support and provide feedback on clients’ attempts to change their attitudes and behaviours.
Problems are perceptions, behaviours or external forces that compromise individuals’ quality of life and impact on their personal potential, productivity and enjoyment of life. Problems may be located or be seen to be located:
- Within two or more of the above domains.
Counselling aims to:
- Relieve distress;
- Enhance personal, interpersonal and social functioning;
- Enhance capacity to manage everyday affairs.
Swan Family Lawyers regularly work with family counsellors for the benefit of our clients.