Often the reason is fairly clear. If we think of families as living organisms the parts of which work together to deal with the outside world, then there simply are times that new stressors appear and have to be dealt with. Sometimes the pain and challenge of those new events are just too difficult to cope with if there isn’t some outside assistance available.
Some of the obvious stressors that cause families to seek help are the death of a loved one, the loss of a pregnancy or the death of a newborn, divorce, remarriage, the need to blend families together, the birth of a child, the loss of a job, or the necessity to move to a new home or even to a new section of the country. Life is difficult and sometimes an added stress can just overwhelm. One goal of family counseling is to help families deal with those stressors.
While family counseling can help deal with such stressors, working with families has another important function, one that is not so obvious. It is an effective method for dealing with many emotional and behavioral problems that appear to be rooted in individuals. It can be an effective alternative or adjunct to more traditional individual psychotherapies.
What are some of the indications that family therapy might be a good choice? First is the rapid onset of the problem behavior, particularly if the person whose behavior has changed was previously functioning well and there is no obvious trauma that might have set things awry. An example might be a child who had been doing fine suddenly refusing to attend school. Even if the behavior of this “patient of record,” which is what we call the problem individual, seems so bizarre as to be labeled crazy or in the usual diagnostic terms psychotic, family treatment can often accomplish a lot. In fact, one of the advantages of family therapy is the removal of the stigma of being the “patient” and replacing it with the idea that this is a shared problem.
A second indicator for family counseling is the unwillingness of some members of the household to take part in solving the problem, of helping that “patient of record” to get better. Since the assumption that makes families work is that the members love one another, there should be a willingness of everybody to help with this problematic situation. If somebody is “too busy,” “can’t see the point of meeting as a family” or offers similar resistance, that’s a good indication that there is in fact a family problem.
A third indication is that the person whose problem is difficult tries to make their behavior seem quite natural and normal. For example, they might try to make the problem seem like a medical issue rather than a behavioral one or they might say they are working on the solution or they may try to deny that the problem behavior exists; such denial is frequently found with substance abuse and eating disorders.
That “normalization” of behavior is often belied by the individual’s finding ways to come into conflict with others about it. For example, an anorexic will do battle with everybody about what family meals and menus should be instead of the much less conflictful reduction of serving sizes and possibly avoiding meals by being so busy.
Dr. Kenneth Weene Ph.D.
Ken Weene was born outside of Boston and grew up in Massachusetts and Maine. Although he has lived many places since, Ken considers himself a Broody New Englander.
Ken went to high school at the Governor’s Academy in South Byfield, Mass and then to Princeton University where he studied economics. From there he went to Teachers’ College at Columbia University to study International Education and Social Psychology. Ken then spent a few years teaching, primarily at Northeastern University and in public schools. Returning to graduate school, Ken spent a year at the University of Iowa before transferring to The Institute for Advanced Psychological Studies at Adelphi University in New York. While working on his PhD in Human Behavior, he also studied at the Ackerman Family Institute.
Dr. Weene continued teaching in New York, primarily at SUNY Old Westbury, Suffolk Community College, and a special program for police at New York Institute of Technology. His clinical work experience included the Suffolk County Mental Health Board, Northeast Nassau State Hospital, and the Counseling Service of the Long Island Council of Churches, where he directed family and youth services. Ken was in private practice as a psychologist for many years before he and his wife moved to Arizona.
Once settled in Phoenix, Ken directed most of his energy to his passion for writing novels, essays, poetry, and short stories. Having been ordained, he also offered assistance as a pastoral counselor.
Recently moved to Tucson, Ken is currently working on a book about families and counseling. It will be his second work of non-fiction. The first was co-writing a memoir with one of the Lost Boys of South Sudan.
Ken continues to offer counseling services at a low fee both in his office and via Skye. While most counseling is done individually, Ken remains committed to working with families and intimate groups because he strongly believes that more often than not symptoms are caused by difficulty in communicating with those who are closest to us and that such difficulty is often the result of people feeling unsafe in sharing their emotions and needs.
As a Therapist
I guess you could say I’m an old-timer and an eclectic. I studied psychology at both one of the most behavioristic schools and at one of the most psychoanalytic in America, the University of Iowa and then Adelphi Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies. I also studied with the father of family therapy, Nat Ackerman. I did my internship in a county mental health service which included working with family court and a state hospital and then worked for years at a faith-based counseling service, the Counseling Service of the Long Island (New York) Council of Churches. I also worked closely with one of the premier psychopharmacologists on Long Island.
Once in private practice, I was known as the therapist of last resort for children and adolescents who had been to a number of previous therapists without success. Working with kids and families is rewarding but draining. I must admit it took a toll.
Other groups with whom I worked extensively were transgender and gender-dysphoric clients and those who had difficulty accepting their sexual preferences. I have also worked with a number of people who have had issues with self-medicating and with couples having difficulty with their marriages.
My approach has always been eclectic, problem-solving oriented, and supportive. I believe that psychotherapy and counseling are vocations not just jobs. I also believe that counselors work for their clients and that it our professional responsibility to help clients make viable life choices that work for them rather than simply conforming to the expectations of others. In that regard, I have always respected my clients’ religious and political views as well as their decisions regarding medication. I encourage my clients to use other resources beyond my services; these include twelve-step programs like AA, bibliotherapy (reading books they find helpful), and joining groups and classes.
My fees are based on a sliding scale which is geared to each client’s ability to pay. It is my policy to not charge for the first session if we do not continue working together; that policy is based on my view that clients are consumers and have the right to shop and find the service they want.
As to my own life, I grew up in New England, went to boarding school at age fourteen and then to Princeton. After that, I did some grad work at Columbia and then taught for a few years. After marrying, I went to Iowa and then to Adelphi. We lived on Long Island until 2002, when we moved to Phoenix, AZ. Even though it tore us away from our son and other loved ones, it was a good move for us. After fifteen years there, my wife and I decided we preferred the quality of life in Tucson, a city we had been visiting regularly, and relocated here.
You are most welcome to contact me to set up an appointment or for further inquiries.
Counseling Fees, Frequencies, and Policies
Kenneth Weene, Ph.D.
Fees: My fees are set on a sliding scale with a minimum of $30 per session and a maximum of $125. The actual fee is set with the client(s) and should be based on their reasonable ability to pay. There is no charge for the initial session unless the client(s) and I decide to continue working together.
Generally, sessions for individual counseling are 50 minutes and for couples an hour. Family sessions are typically double length, that is to say about 100 minutes.
Payment is expected at the time of sessions. Failure to pay as agreed does automatically terminate my services. Also, payment is required for sessions cancelled with less than 24 hours’ notice. Phone and Skype sessions may be paid for using PayPal.
Frequency: While I see usually start seeing clients weekly, I try to move towards a lower frequency as quickly as possible.
I try to be available for emergency sessions when the need arises.
I can, if needs be, provide Skype or telephone sessions; however, I cannot guarantee the privacy of those sessions as I do not have access to the requisite computer-ware to do so. I do charge for Skype and phone sessions.
Medical issues: My services are never to be construed as being an alternative to proper medical care. This caveat includes but is not limited to psychiatric, neurological, and endocrinological screening and treatment.
Substance Abuse and Self Harm: I will work with substance abusers and clients who engage in self-destructive behaviors and with their families, I insist they recognize that such issues may require medical intervention and possibly confinement in a treatment center or hospital. No therapist can guarantee success, health, or safety for their clients, and especially not when self-harm is involved.
Confidentiality: All sessions are confidential. While I encourage honesty and transparency within families, I will not share information shared in confidence with others unless it is my legal and/or ethical responsibility to do so.