In decades past, families would take their problems to the doctor, priest, or rabbi. These days, family crises are more likely to attract the attention of the police, lawyers, and the courts. Counselling is, nevertheless, available to families in crisis. In urban centres, professionals in private practice who have expertise in social work, psychology, or psychiatry offer marriage, family, and individual counselling on a fee-paying basis. They can be found in the Yellow Pages of any telephone directory together with listings for community services such as Family Service Agencies and Children’s Aid Societies. Community agencies may provide counselling services free of charge or assess a fee based on a sliding scale to reflect the ability to pay.
Counselling may deal with an ongoing problem within an intact family or it may involve a family threatened by separation or divorce. In previous generations, marriage counselling existed to promote reconciliation. A couple heading for divorce was urged to reconcile. Today, reconciliation is regarded as only one of the options. Much of the effort of family counsellors is now directed towards helping families understand how they will be affected by separation or divorce and how they can deal with the emotional, economic, and parenting consequences of marriage breakdown.
Of course, not everybody who lives together goes through a ceremony of marriage. People who live in common-law relationships encounter similar types of problems to married couples whose relationship is threatened or terminated. They may need family counselling. Family Service Agencies and private practitioners also provide counselling services for people after separation or divorce. Of particular significance in this regard are blended or reconstituted families arising when divorced people remarry. Although step-parents are not inevitably related to the "wicked witch of the west,"...