Family Counselling is a service for anyone you define as your family – be it your family of origin (your birth/adoptive family) or your family of choice (family you’ve had as an adult, not necessarily biologically related).  You do not have to be married or civil partnered to receive this service.

Holding Hearts Family Counselling Service uses a systemic approach because this focuses on the way people live their lives together.

 A Systemic Approach:


  • Explores the network of significant relationships within which people are involved.
  • It moves away from internal processes to interpersonal relationships.
  • It is interested in the invitations people make to one another in communication.
  • It explores patterns at the level of beliefs and actions and sees behaviour in context, which gives it meaning.
  • It focuses on the resourcefulness of clients to create alternative stories and more useful accounts, interactions and behaviour, moving away from problem talk.
  • It attempts to create a context in which the voice of the child can be heard.
  • It pays attention to and challenges dominant discourses


Counsellors are equipped to work with the following client groups


  1. Family members – by family we mean any group of people who describe themselves as a family.
  2. Parents.
  3. Sibling groups – children or adult.
  4. Extended family members – grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.
  5. Blended families.


The counsellors are equipped to work with the following relational issues:


  1. Parents and children who struggle to communicate effectively.
  2. Parents whose different ideas and practices around parenting cause friction in the couple and family relationships.
  3. Adult siblings who have unresolved issues affecting their relationships.
  4. Children / young people who are struggling with sibling or other significant relationships.
  5. Blended families coping with bringing together differences in discipline and expectations into a ‘new’ family.
  6. Family members who are recovering from the influence of any form of domestic violence or abuse in the past which continues to affect their lives and relationships.

The focus of all of this work is relational.


The following are contra-indicators for family counselling:


  1. Family breakdown as a result of any form of violence or abuse directed at any member of the family which is currently the subject of a child protection investigation or legal proceedings.
  2. Families where domestic violence or abuse persists.
  3. Families where a psychiatric or psychological assessment or diagnosis is required by a third party.
  4. Families where reports are required by third parties for criminal legal proceedings, custody cases, assessments of parenting, care proceedings, etc.
  5. Families where mental illness, alcohol or drug dependency requiring specialist intervention may represent an inappropriate referral.  On-going work may be possible if client(s) are accessing support from an appropriate agency and/or health professional.  Attention should be given to ensure that services do not overlap and therefore create difficulty or confusion for client/s.

Likely referral sources

  1. Self referral.
  2. Internal referrals from other Holding Hearts counsellors where Family Counselling is regarded as the appropriate service.
  3. Social Services – It is important to note that any referral accepted from Social Services should be done with the understanding of on-going support for the family from the Department.
  4. General Practitioners – It is important to ensure that the focus is relational. Holding Heartscannot embark upon individual work to do with mental health issues. In all Holding Hearts’s work, access to a GP may be required in an emergency, and therefore clients are asked to name their GP in their initial session.
  5. Friends and Family may seek to refer one another – It is important to check that those seeking to attend are fully aware of the appointments. This may require a provisional appointment to be made and confirmed at a later date.


Family Counselling and Family Therapy

An important distinction is to be made between Family Counselling and Family Therapy.

Family Therapy may include psychiatrists, psychologists, community psychiatric nurses, social workers, family therapists, child psychotherapists and othersThis group of professionals can make a range of assessments including psychiatric and psychological diagnoses, which could be required for external organisations such as Social Service Departments, the legal arena, etc.

Family Counselling is a service provided by Holding Hearts counsellors who have completed at least one year of training in Systemic Therapy training (foundation year). They are certificated and experienced counsellors. The focus of work will be relational and look at communication problems between people, but will not involve any diagnoses or assessments. The work is largely preventative, dealing with life issues before they become serious problems requiring specialist interventions. We aim to work with people to improve their relationships and communication.

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