How to Know When Your Family Needs Help

Last Editorial Review: 1/30/2005

WebMD Feature

How to Know When Your Family Needs Help

The American Association for Marriage and Family notes that signs of distress are not always obvious, but says the signals below are worth paying attention to:

  • Persistent feelings of dissatisfaction
  • Problems with a child's behavior, school adjustment, or performance
  • Sexual problems or concerns
  • Unexplainable fatigue or difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulties in talking with family members, friends, or co-workers
  • Feelings of loneliness, moodiness, depression, sadness, failure, stress, or anxiety
  • The need for tranquilizers, energizers, or sleeping aids
  • Family stress due to chronic illnesses, or illness in which stress plays a major role
  • Problems with alcohol or drugs
  • Frequent financial difficulties
  • Difficulty in setting or reaching goals
  • Drastic weight fluctuations or irregular eating patterns
  • Work difficulties, frequent job changes, problems with co-workers
  • Difficulties with anger, hostility, or violence

Where to Get Help

If you need help, your parents, family physician, minister, or rabbi may have recommendations. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy web site at lists their members by area (or call them at (202) 452-0109). Telephone potential therapists to find out if they suit your needs. Consider the following when you talk to potential therapists:

  • Do they have experience with the kinds of problems you'd like to work on?
  • What's their training and what approach do they take?
  • What is the average length of therapy they advise?
  • Are they available by phone in case of crisis?
  • What do they charge? Is it negotiable? If their fees seem out of your range, you might ask whether they can recommend helpful community services.
  • Are their services covered by health insurance?

Jeanie Puleston Fleming writes frequently for The New York Times and other publications.

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