What is family of origin work?
Therapists will likely have slightly different interpretations of what it is – and how to go about doing the therapy work itself. My definition of “family of origin work” in it’s simplest form is, “healing from our past to be able to move forward in the present.” I have repeatedly found (in life and with my clients) that a range of emotional and relational issues that can be connected to the person’s family of origin experiences with parents, primary care-givers and/or families in general. Anxiety, depression, anger, fear and recurrent relationship problems are often tied up in unresolved issues from the past. It is an area of great passion for me to help people move through their old wounds and successfully re-adjust their lens on life to one of clarity and hope.
Who might benefit from family of origin work?
People who might benefit from this type of work are those who experienced a number of different situations in the past that are keeping them from living fulfilling and peaceful lives in the present. These “situations” usually occurred early in life – though can continue in various patterns straight through to adulthood.
Examples of problematic situations occurring earlier in life include:
- Childhood Trauma (physical, sexual or emotional abuse)
- Critical or harsh parenting styles in childhood
- Rejecting or dismissing parenting styles in childhood
- Living in a chaotic, fear-based environment in childhood
- Witnessing a volatile, high-conflict relationship between your parents
What Might I Expect if I Wanted to Do Family of Origin Work?
Again, therapists will all have their own unique approaches – but my family of origin work in therapy involves an exploration of the past, understanding of how the past might have impacted you on an emotional level, identifying any unhelpful core beliefs you may have developed about yourself, others and the world – and changing these unhelpful core beliefs. I find that these “unhelpful core beliefs” often underlie many depression, anxiety, fear, anger and relationship problems. I also teach cognitive-behavioral tools (changing your thinking to impact your feeling and behavior) to maintain these changes. A look at attachment wounds with parents or primary caregivers is also imperative.
Some Final Thoughts about Family of Origin Work
People who feel “stuck” usually know who they are – they’ve probably felt “stuck” a long time. Your type of “stuck” might appear different than the next person’s – but at the end of the day, something is keeping you from feeling content in your own skin or in relationship to others.
Not all therapists view people through a past-oriented lens. If you’re considering doing this kind of work, I encourage you to ask potential therapists about how they view people, the issues they struggle with and the ways at which deep and lasting change occurs.
You CAN shape the present and future that you deserve!