Family Counseling and the Intake Process

The first family counseling session:

A typical initial family counseling session lasts about one and a half hours and includes meeting with the youth and the parent(s) or guardian(s). The first 50 minutes are spent individually with the youth, and the remaining time is spent with either the parent/guardian individually, or the family together, depending on each family's preference and circumstances. This type of intake session is typical with Seattle family counseling.

All subsequent family counseling sessions are 50 minutes in length.

Family member participation in counseling:

I believe that including family members in the counseling process can be very helpful and increases the chances of long term change. Therefore, it is likely that, during the course of treatment, I will ask various family members or the entire family to attend family counseling sessions with the youth.

Please note that family members are only invited into a family counseling session with the youth when planned in advance and when viewed as beneficial for all parties.

As stated above, I try to incorporate family counseling into the work I do with youth. However, if at some point during the course of therapy it becomes clear that primarily family counseling will be more effective than individual work with youth, I will assist the family with referrals to the appropriate family therapist in the Seattle area. Occasionally I am willing to transition from doing individual work with a youth to family therapy, however each case is evaluated individually and is highly dependent on the needs of the youth and each family member.

Goals in family counseling and change:

Within the first few family counseling sessions I work with the youth and family members to establish clear counseling goals. Over the course of therapy I will check in with everyone to determine what progress they are seeing on the goals and what we might need to change. I always like to remind clients and families that change is not an easy endeavor and that sometimes the situation gets a little worse before it gets better. Communication and ‘sticking it out in the hard times’ are key to reaching long term goals.


Both the parent/guardian and the youth are required to sign the consent to treatment. The youth and parent/guardian also need to sign all releases of information, allowing the therapist to talk with third parties, such as, school staff, extended family or friends, probation officers, and other professionals.

Adolescents often find it difficult to trust an adult not to pass on information gained during the family counseling process. In order for therapy to be successful, there must be a clear understanding that information the youth discloses during counseling is kept private. This privacy must be balanced with the parent's or guardian's need to know that the youth is actively participating in the therapeutic process. My policy for insuring all parties feel confident and safe with the process is as follows:

  • In the initial family counseling session the youth signs a release authorizing me to inform the parent or guardian of their attendance and level of participation/progress. It is important to remember that no other information will be shared unless the youth authorizes this in writing.

  • If third parties need to be informed of therapy, both the youth and the guardian/parent will be required to sign additional releases.

  • If the youth does not show up to a scheduled session, I will call the parent or guardian immediately.

  • I will occasionally check-in with the parent or guardian regarding family counseling goals and progress, either by phone or during sessions with the family.

  • If a crisis occurs, it is appropriate for the guardian or parent to leave a message informing me of the situation, so it can be addressed in the next session.

  • Clients 18 years of age or older do not need to have a parent or guardian sign any forms, unless the parent or guardian is paying for the family counseling services.

Additional information on confidentiality is contained in my counselor disclosure statement in the forms section of this site.

Please contact me for information regarding my Seattle family counseling and youth counseling services.