Family Counselling

Family Counselling distance learning course. Understand problems faced by families and ways to resolve these. Professional training for support and social workers, counsellors, and others.

Course Code: BPS213
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Family Counselling Training - study by Distance Learning

  • Develop a better understanding of family Dynamics, and a capacity to analyse and facilitate solutions to problems that emerge in modern families.

  • This course can be useful for anyone working with or interested in families. For example, social workers, teachers, counsellors, volunteers, family workers, support workers, carers, health and well-being workers, educational staff, parents and foster parents. In fact, anyone who would like to help families in distress.

The Focus of Family Counselling

Typically, the counsellor who is dealing with an individual will focus on the cognitive, emotional and behavioural problems of their client from the client’s perspective in order to understand, and perhaps diagnose, the problem. They will then work with the client so as to find ways to help the client to resolve those issues.


Given that the family systems counsellor is more interested in the client’s relationships and roles within the family, the focus of family therapy is to understand the client’s experiences and perspectives within this system and to try to change the way the client experiences the family system. The counsellor will still consider the client as an individual but will look to the interactions and relationships of the client within the family system, and perhaps community, to see how the client is influenced by, and indeed influences, the system. It is in this context that the counsellor will strive for interventions which lead to change.

It follows then that the family systems counsellor will address the client’s cognitive, emotional and behavioural problems but consider them in the way in which they affect the family system in terms of how they affect other family members. An individual’s functioning might be reflective of the whole family’s functioning. Whilst family therapists acknowledge that not all problems are indicative of problems within the broader family, the individual client’s problems will have an impact upon the family system because the family will have to accommodate those problems.


By bringing about change in a family system, it is considered that this will necessarily bring about change in the individual members of that system. One of the difficulties with the family systems approach is that families are often reluctant to change their perspectives for fear of the unknown. As such, bringing about change can be a long process. Strategies used may have to be more directional and educational. However, families which benefit from this approach may be better able to resolve problems which arise in the future.

As with individual therapy, there are many approaches to family therapy. Whilst some counsellors prefer a particular approach, it may be prudent to use techniques from a variety of approaches as and when the need arises. In some cases, you may find one particular approach is more useful.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Nature & Scope of Families
    • Different types of families
    • Traditional Family Structures
    • Family Systems
    • Cultural variations
    • Family Lifecycles
  2. Family Dynamics
    • Crises
    • Changing cultures (immigrant families)
    • Evolving Structures (Religion, new siblings, departing siblings, changing parents, incoming grandparents)
    • Breakdowns
    • Merging two families
    • Abuse
    • Violence
    • Death
    • Illness
    • Changing location (losing friends etc.)
    • Changing income (loss of job etc.)
    • Disintegration & Reintegration
  3. History
    • How are dynamics different & similar today to in the past.
    • How did we cope with family problems in the past in different places, cultures etc.
    • What can we learn from this? How can we draw strength from knowing all this is not new?
  4. Identifying Problems
    • Patterns
    • Critical incidents
    • Long standing incidents
    • Common problems for families
    • Common problems for couples
  5. Support Structures
    • What support services might be accessed
    • Extended family
    • Community services
    • Social networks
    • Religion
    • Types of counselling, -individual, Group Work etc (incl. problems with Group work) etc.
  6. Approaches to Family Therapy I
    • Goals of family counselling
    • Adlerian family counselling
    • Fundamental ideas
    • Family atmosphere
    • Family constellation
    • Mistaken faulty goals
    • Counselling goals
    • Role of the counsellor
    • Counselling techniques -open forum, daily interactions, interviewing children,etc
    • Transgenerational Family Therapy
    • Fundamental ideas - triangulation,differentiation of self
    • Genograms
    • Questioning
    • Human validation process model
    • Family sculpting
    • Family reconstruction
    • Experiential Family Therapy ... etc
  7. Approaches to Family Therapy II
    • Structural Family Therapy
    • Family structure
    • Family sub systems
    • Boundaries
    • Counselling goals and role of the counsellor
    • Techniques - reframing, family mapping, enactments
    • Strategic Family Therapy
    • Directives
    • Social Constructionist family therapy
    • Reflecting team
    • Linguistic approach
    • Narrative approach
    • Solution oriented approach
    • Externalisation and deconstruction ... etc
  8. Conducting Initial Interviews/Sessions
    • Carrying out an assessment
    • Joining & Contracting
    • Tentative hypotheses
    • Tracking
    • Family Constellation
    • Teaching family
    • Commitment
  9. Considering Solutions to Family Problems
    • Multicultural Family Therapy
    • Sexual Abuse
    • Group therapy
    • Individual & family therapy
    • Multiple therapists
    • Issues
  10. Case Study
    • Consider a situation establish & consider alternative strategies & select a strategy.

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Describe family diversity in terms of a variety of factors including structure and function.
  • Explain the interactions and motivations at work in different families.
  • Describe how we have dealt with family problems in the past; then evaluate the results of these past strategies, and learn from those results.
  • Determine precisely what problems exist in a family; and evaluate the relative significance of those different problems.
  • Identify and compare support options that may be available to a family with problems
  • Understand what is meant by a family systems approach to counselling and describe different theoretical perspectives.
  • Describe further theoretical approaches to family therapy and understand the usefulness of an integrated approach.
  • Plan the initial interview for a couple or for a family, in need of counselling.
  • Identify optional approaches for counselling a family or couple with problems.
  • Plan a program of counselling and if relevant, other strategies, to address a family or couple in crisis.

What is a family?

It is usually a group people who live together forming a social group. It usually consists of the parent(s) and their children, living together. The members of the group are usually related by marriage, blood or adoption. However, in modern society, there are many different variations of family, to represent the different ways that families and society have changed. The family is still the basic unit within society.

Family Roles

In developed countries, roles within the traditional family have changed over recent years. For example, in the early 1900's, a man tended to be seen as the breadwinner, whilst the woman stayed at home to care for the children. This was not always obviously the case, but these are generalisations. Family roles have changed due to

  • Changes in child care, meaning that more options are available for the woman to work.

  • Legislation in many countries has given equal rights to women and men.

  • Children now have access to state education.

  • Maternity leave in some countries have meant that people can take time off work and still receive some income.

  • Perceptions of women and men working have changed and so on...

Family roles have changed, but it would be highly unlikely for a family to “fit” perfectly.

It may be that they are a mixture of both. It would be unusual for a family to fit ideally into one type or another. These are obviously just very wide generalisations.

Crises in Families

Within the life cycle of a family, many different crises can occur. The type of crises that occurs can depend on the family, where they are living, the time in which they are living, how religious they are, their class, education and so on and so on. In other words, there are many different factors that affect how a family cope with different situations and whether crises occur.

A crisis is a period of transition in the life of the individual, family or group, presenting individuals with a turning point in their lives, which may be seen as a challenge or a threat, a "make or break" new possibility or risk, a gain or a loss, or both simultaneously. Most crises are part of the normal range of life experiences that most people can expect, and most people will recover from crisis without professional intervention. However, there are crises outside the bounds of a person's everyday experience or coping resources which may require expert help to achieve recovery. A crisis can refer to any situation in which the individual perceives a sudden loss in their ability to problem solve and to cope. These may include natural disasters, sexual assault, criminal victimisation, mental illness, suicidal thoughts, homicide, and a drastic change in relationships and so on.

Sometimes counselling is an unfamiliar solution that is not readily embraced by a family; but if it is, it can help the family mend and adapt to a new dynamic both easier and faster.

What are the Benefits of this Course?

This course focuses on an area of counselling which is important for most counsellors to be familiar with. There are often times when all members of a family are affected by the behaviour of one member, or the family itself has become fragmented and non-functional. When this happens no amount of therapy for one family member will help heal the broader family bonds. Students of this course will become familiar with different approaches to family counselling and a range of techniques they can use in family situations.

This course is designed to appeal to people working in, or hoping to work in:

  • Family counselling

  • Psychology

  • Counselling

  • Psychotherapy

  • Social work

  • Psychiatric nursing

  • Caring roles

  • Health professions

  • Teaching

ACS is an Organisational Member of the Association for Coaching (UK).
ACS is an Organisational Member of the Association for Coaching (UK).
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.

How can I start this course?

You can enrol at anytime and start the course when you are ready. Enrolments are accepted all year - students can commence study at any time. All study is self paced and ACS does not set assignment deadlines.

Please note that if a student is being assisted by someone else (e.g. an employer or government subsidy), the body offering the assistance may set deadlines. Students in such situations are advised to check with their sponsor prior to enrolling. The nominal duration of a course is approximately how long a course takes to complete. A course with a nominal duration of 100 hours is expected to take roughly 100 hours of study time to complete. However, this will vary from student to student. Short courses (eg. 100 hrs duration) should be completed within 12 months of enrolment. Certificates, Advanced Certificates and Awards (eg. over 500 hours duration) would normally be completed within 3 -5 years of enrolment. Additional fees may apply if a student requires an extended period to complete.
If a student cannot submit their assignments for 6 months to ACS, they should advise the school to avoid cancellation of their student
registration. Recommencement fees may apply.

Simply click on the ENROL OPTIONS button at the top of this screen and follow the prompts.

You can see the course price at the top of this page. Click 'enrolment options' to see any payment options available.

You can pay by Credit Card, PayPal, Afterpay or bank transfer.

Yes! We have payment plans for most courses. Click 'enrolment options' to see the available payment plans.
We also have Afterpay that will allow you to pay for your course or payment plans in four instalments (if you are in Australia).

What do I need to know before I enrol?

There are no entry requirements that you need to meet to enrol in our courses, our courses are for everyone.
If you are under 18, we need written permission from your parent/ guardian for your enrolment to continue, we can arrange that after you have enrolled.

You don’t need to purchase any additional resources to complete our courses.

We aim to teach you the essentials without you having to purchase any specific computer program.
We recommend that you have access to a word processing program, such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs, so that you can easily complete and submit your assignments.

You sure can. We are here to help you learn whatever your abilities.

Yes, if you are enrolling in a Certificate or Advanced Certificate, you might be eligible for credits if you have evidence of your previous studies or relevant experience. More information is here.

We recommend that you are able to browse websites, send emails and conduct online research. You will need to be able to type and submit your assignments.
If you have limited computer skills, we can make special arrangements for you.

This is possible, it depends on the institution. We recommend that if you would like to use our courses that you contact the institution first. Our Course Handbook is a good resource for this.

Our courses are written in English and we only have English speaking academic staff. If you can read and complete your assignments in English, our courses are ideal for you.

Our courses are designed to build knowledge, hands on skills and industry connections to help prepare you to work in the area, running your own business, professional development or as a base for further study.

This course has been designed to cover the fundamentals of the topic. It will take around 100 hours to complete, which includes your course reading, assignment work, research, practical tasks, watching videos and anything else that is contained in the course. Our short courses are a great way to do some professional development or to learn a new skill.

It’s up to you. The study hours listed in the course are a rough guide, however if you were to study a short course (100 hours) at 10 hours per week, you could finish the course in 10 weeks (just an example). Our courses are self-paced, so you can work through the courses in your own time. We recommend that you wait for your tutor to mark and return your assignment before your start your next one, so you get the benefits of their feedback.

The course consists of course notes, videos, set tasks for your practical work, online quizzes, an assignment for each lesson (that you receive feedback from your tutor from) and ends in an exam (which is optional, if would like to receive the formal award at the end), using our custom built Learning Management System - Login.Training.

Our courses are designed for adults to gain professional development and skills to further their careers and start businesses.

Our custom online learning portal allows you to conduct your learning online. There may be practical tasks that you can do offline. You have the option of downloading your course notes or print them to read later.

There is also the option to pay an additional fee for printed course notes and or USB (availability limited to location and deliverability).

Yes, if you don’t have access to the internet, you can receive the course as paper notes or on a USB stick for an additional fee. We can also make alternative arrangements for you to send your assignments to us.

We offer printed notes for an additional fee. Also, you can request your course notes on a USB stick for an additional fee.

Yes, your tutor is here to help you. Simply post any questions you have in your portal or contact the office and we can pass on a message to your tutor.

We are more learning focussed, rather than assessment focussed. You have online quizzes to test your learning, written assignments and can complete an exam at the end of the course (if you want to receive your certificate). You will not receive a pass/ fail on your course work. If you need to add more details on your assignment, we will ask you to resubmit and direct you where you need to focus. If you need help, you can ask your tutor for advice in the student room.

Each module (short course) is completed with one exam.

Exams are optional, however you must sit an exam if you would like to receive a formal award. You will need to find someone who can supervise that you are sitting the exams under exams conditions. There is an additional cost of $60 incl. GST for each exam.
More information is here

There are practical components built into the course that have been designed to be achieved by anyone, anywhere. If you are unable to complete a task for any reason, you can ask your tutor for an alternative.

When you complete the course work and the exam and you will be able receive your course certificate- a Statement of Attainment. Otherwise, you can receive a Letter of Completion.

You can bundle the short courses to create your own customised learning bundle, Certificates or Advanced Certificates. More information is on this page.

Yes, our courses are built to be applicable for people living anywhere in any situation. We provide the fundamentals, and each student can apply their own unique flair for their own interests, region and circumstances with the one-on-one guidance of a tutor. There is also a bit of student directed research involved.

Employers value candidates with industry skills, knowledge, practical skills and formal learning. Our courses arm you with all of these things to help prepare you for a job or start your own business. The longer you study the more you will learn.

ACS has an arrangement with OAMPS (formerly AMP) who can arrange Professional Indemnity from Australian and New Zealand graduates across all disciplines. Ph: 1800 222 012 or email

Who are ACS Distance Education?

ACS Distance Education have been educating people for over 40 years.

We are established and safe- we have been in education for over 40 years.
We are focused on developing innovative courses that are relevant to you now and what you will need to know in the future.
We are focused on helping you learn and make the most of your experience.
You can enrol at any time, you can work on your course when it suits you and at your own pace.
We are connected to many industry bodies and our staff participate in continuous improvement and learning activities to ensure that we are ahead of what learning is needed for the future.

Our courses are not accredited by the Australian Government. However many of our courses are recognised and held in high regard by many industry bodies.

Our courses are written by our staff, who all have many years experience and have qualifications in their speciality area. We have lots of academic staff who write and update our courses regularly.

How do I enrol my staff/ sponsored students?

Yes, you can do a request for a bulk enrolment and request an invoice on our Invoice Request Form

We can prepare an invoice, quote or proforma invoice. Simply complete your details on our Invoice Request form

We can arrange bulk discounts for your course enrolment, please get in touch with us to discuss your needs.

Yes, we have many students who are in locked facilities, such as prisons or hospitals. We can cater by also offering paper notes at an additional cost.

What if I have any more questions or need more information?

We can assist you to find the right course for your needs. Get in touch with us via email ( call on +61 7 5562 1088 or complete our course advice form.

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Jacinda Cole (Psychologist)

Psychologist, Educator, Author, Psychotherapist.
B.Sc., Psych.Cert., M. Psych. Cert.Garden Design, MACA
Jacinda has over 25 years of experience in psychology, in both Australia and England. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and a Masters in Psychology (Clinical) and also trained in psychoanalytic psychotherapy at the London Centre for Psychotherapy. She has co-authored several psychology text books and many courses including diploma and degree level courses in psychology and counselling. Jacinda has worked for ACS for over 10 years.

Tracey Jones (Psychologist)

B.Sc. (Psych), M.Soc.Sc., Dip.Social Work, P.G.Dip Learning Disability, Cert Editing, Cert Creative Writing, PGCE.
Member British Psychological Society, Member Assoc. for Coaching, Member British Learning Assoc.
25 years industry experience in writing, editing, education, psychology, and business. Tracey has several books and hundreds of articles published; in both fiction and non fiction.

Lyn Quirk

M.Prof.Ed.; Adv.Dip.Compl.Med (Naturopathy); Adv.Dip.Sports Therapy
Over 30 years as Health Club Manager, Fitness Professional, Teacher, Coach and Business manager in health, fitness and leisure industries. As business owner and former department head for TAFE, she brings a wealth of skills and experience to her role as a tutor for ACS.

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