Family Therapist Brooklyn
Families provide love and support, but can also be the source of much conflict and frustration. Ideally, our homes should provide a safe space where we can live and grow, a place where we work with one another to get through tough times. However, many families struggle with difficult dynamics and some are afflicted by additional problems such as addiction or violence. Family therapy can be beneficial for those struggling to navigate their way through such challenges. A therapist may identify and address mental health issues, assist in developing coping skills, and improve overall communication. Ultimately, therapy can support individual members as it strengthens bonds and brings everyone closer.
“Family” means different things to different people. Whether it involves biological members, blended families, or those in the same household, it can be anyone who has a pivotal role in the long-term support and structure of one's life. Family therapy generally involves those living in the same household, but that doesn't have to be the case, and not every person needs to be present in the room for every session. A therapist can identify and determine the best course of action for treatment once there is a better understanding of the current challenges.
As a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW/LCSW) I work with individuals, couples, and families to address mental health issues and focus on the emotional needs of everyone involved. With family therapy, the work we do will take into account the unique needs of your family and figure out the best path forward. This will involve exploring the systems at play and examining any emotional interdependence of family members to better understand behaviors. We will address the most pressing issues, and explore attachments, which provide the emotional and social glue keeping the family structure steady and strong.
In my clinical practice, I view relationships through the lens of attachment. Our early bonds inform the connections we make in the future. I’ll go into further detail about what that means in a moment, but first, it's important to identify when therapy is a more pressing or urgent need. Then we'll talk about helping the whole family adjust to changes, and overcome the obstacles preventing family collaboration and cohesion.
How to Know When to Seek Professional Help
When any member of the family is feeling down, distant, or distraught it can affect the entire family unit. Some people are more outwardly communicative with their frustrations, while others express their issues in more subtle ways. If there is an individual in the home suffering from anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, it's critical that the person seek help. And, if this seems to be affecting others in the household, as is often the case, it's advisable to consider family therapy.
If interactions between certain family members can be characterized by antagonism and conflict, this may also be a reason to seek support. If there are unhealthy patterns that need to be addressed between siblings or conflicts between parent and child, chances are that these dynamics could be improved by involving a professional with experience. Finally, if there is a traumatic or triggering event such as a divorce, death, arrest, or a transition to a new home, it can cause severe changes in the emotional state and stability of everyone involved. Major life changes are hard to work through even with a strong foundation, so if there are already fractures and fissures that have weakened familial bonds, then seeking therapy becomes even more critical.
In therapy, a family will work to reduce distress and diffuse conflict by focusing on the care and concern they have for each other. This reflects an attachment-based approach. So, whether there’s a breakdown of communication, someone is struggling with addiction, or everyone is dealing with a relative’s death, therapy can guide each family member in working through challenges, as they keep the emotional bonds between them foremost in their minds.
In my practice as a mental health professional, I am able to facilitate conversations and develop boundaries and goals. Clients can work through life transitions and challenges and talk about any mental health issues they experience. I will continue to move the conversations along and forge a path forward with the family. A home doesn't have to be a place where there is constant conflict. By working together to improve communication and set healthy boundaries, any family is capable of learning to co-exist while getting their individual needs met.
The care and attention we receive early on in our lives teaches us about the nature of relationships. We learn whether we can trust, if we can be ourselves, and if someone will care for us when we are hurt. When these social and emotional bonds with caregivers are secure, we are generally more prepared to enter healthy relationships with open lines of communication and trust. When there is trauma or constant turmoil as we form these early bonds, it can inhibit our ability to seek out and establish positive emotional connections in our life.
Individuals in the same family will have varied attachment styles that emerged from their own early experiences. Even siblings have different bonds with parents, based on the emotional availability and stability during critical developmental stages. Yours may be a blended family consisting of members who have very divergent origin stories. Making all the pieces fit together within these dynamics can pose a challenge. As family members work with each other through these issues in therapy, it’s important to ask if emotional needs are being met. Problems that may have arisen out of inability to express those needs can be addressed when everyone is able to exercise empathy, see where people are coming from, and make an effort to mend what’s broken.
Though our society is rather individualistic in many ways, our interconnectedness grounds us and is at the center of our identity, self-esteem, and ability to empathize and grow. As mammals, we’ve evolved to survive in groups. We need one another to mirror healthy behaviors and reflect back our identity. There is a sense of belonging in each of these groups. Since we were not meant to survive independently, a healthy investment in these groups enriches our emotional and mental well-being.
If you have noticed your children disappear to their respective rooms, while you reach for your phones and dive into your different virtual worlds, you’re not alone. However, if this is beginning to have a negative impact on familial relationships and behavior, affecting the connections that each of you feel it is time for them to be addressed. As it turns out, avoidance rarely solves our issues.
Those with teenagers may know that there is a natural tendency for adolescents to pull away from parents to begin prioritizing close relationships. Typical teenage behavior involves them being irritable and defiant as their hormones are changing, and points of connection between parent and child become few and far between. Again, not everything has to signify a problem. If your teenager still engages with others in the home, shows a healthy level of respect for the boundaries you put in place, and has an active social life, you can take a deep breath, and continue observing for the time being. However, if you’ve noticed your teen isolating, acting out with addictive behavior, or withdrawing from activities that used to hold their interest, it’s advisable to seek support.
Outside influences and peer pressure have always been factors in a child’s cognitive and behavioral patterns. These days, with the advent of social media, the social circle has widened. Children may feel observed and judged at a younger age, or able to explore more sensitive topics on their own. Some of the videos they find are fun and educational, but much of what’s out there and marketed to children is quite disturbing. Whether it’s being exposed to inappropriate material, or advertising that confuses and inverts priorities, many parents don’t know how to deal with the onslaught of information.
Of the many reasons to consult family therapists, one is that it encourages setting aside time to discuss issues that often get sidelined or avoided. If devices, video games, or social media are posing problems, then it’s important to set some rules around them. How you approach such changes can be enhanced if you work from an attachment perspective. It’s not about what’s being taken away, it’s about what is gained. Relationship building can involve video games or phones. When parents join in some of their children’s choice activities, that demonstrates an interest in connecting, and also gives the child a chance to show off a little. It might be a silly dance or shooting some space aliens, but when done together, it’s teamwork.
Partnership at the center
Speaking of teamwork, family units come in all shapes and sizes. There are endless family configurations, including families with single parents, families with adopted and foster children, or parents who are in the middle of a separation. However the family forms, it’s important to focus for a moment on that relationship whether it is with yourself or your significant other.
Relationships take time and attention. The parent/s can model this mantra by spending quality time with each other and listening intently. This might even mean putting the phone down when the other person is talking, or setting aside some time every morning or evening to check in. As you may know from personal experience, in a two-parent household when a marriage or partnership falters it can affect the whole family. If there is constant bickering or steely silence, that mood emanates throughout the home. Keeping an open and honest dialogue going with your spouse will set the tone and enable others in the household to feel more at ease. For single parents, feeling overwhelmed while working can impact their time and attention at home, asking for help and accessing the support they need.
Relationships falter for a number of reasons. There are concerns about money, issues of aggression, avoidance, fidelity, and the list goes on. It may be beneficial to attend couples therapy, in tandem with family therapy while to simultaneously explore family dynamics. Sometimes the arguments that occur between the adults have to do with parenting while other times, these conflicts may be about their partnership. Tensions might arise when one parent views the other as too permissive, while that parent feels their spouse never relaxes and has any fun with the children. Seeking advice from a mental health professional or therapist who specializes in family therapy provides a safe space to explore these issues.
When parents intentionally make time for their children, they increase their attachment, they make the child feel seen, heard and special. While we all have obligations and responsibilities, it’s important to put in the time if you want to see results. When a group needs to reach outside of itself to solve problems, this is not a failure, but an accurate assessment of the situation, and a healthy response to an pressing issue. It’s critical to get guidance when progress isn’t being made, the situation is worsening, or there are major differences in opinion about how to proceed. Therapists provide a neutral presence, professionalism, and experience with family systems and their complicated dynamics.
Reach out with questions or to start sessions
I look forward to hearing from you and discussing what it might look like to work with you or your family. While my in-person practice was based in Brooklyn, NY, I am currently conducting all sessions online via Telehealth. I am able to work with clients in New York, from Brooklyn to Buffalo, or from anywhere around the world. The important thing to know is that treatment with me is a safe space, wherever it is.
I have a Master of Social Work from New York University. Additionally, I was trained in Art and Dance Therapy at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. When working with families, I aim to establish authentic connections with each person so they can feel seen and understood, and we can navigate a new way through challenging times. Working together, we can find a way forward.
Becca Leitman's lens and therapeutic approach are rooted in Attachment Therapy. I believe there is great importance in developing healthy, emotionally-fulfilling connections with yourself and those closest to you. I am currently conducting all sessions online via Telehealth. I am able to work with clients from anywhere in New York, or across the country. Just know that treatment with me is a safe and confidential space, wherever it is. Let’s talk. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest , Psychology Today and LinkedIn for mental health guidance, stress and anxiety tips, therapy resources and more.