Chosen Family: A Therapeutic Perspective

by H. Marie and Shadeau Rhodes, LCSW, CFTP

Safe, true, and unconditional. These are only a few of the characteristics that might define a chosen family. A chosen or found family can be described as one that may or may not include biological family members. It may consist of relationships that began as acquaintances, or may have originated from common interests, values, or goals. Across research and after asking several people what they believed about chosen family, we found the most common descriptors included: safe, supportive, present, mutual respect, and care. What sets chosen families apart from biological–or, what we sometimes label in counseling as family of origin–is generally that family of origin carries a sense of obligation, spoken or unspoken expectations, and idealized perspectives based on the past rather than the present.

That sense of obligation may be those internal convictions such as “I must (give, do, support, participate, or be) for the good of the family.” Spoken and/or unspoken expectations may come across like: “We always have (insert holiday) dinner – you have to be there,” “But we’re family,” specific sport team fandom, emphasis on certain values, career path, and so much more. Idealized perspectives tend to be more influential than the obligations and expectations previously mentioned due to their pre-established nature. The range of these idealized perspectives can be as minor as assuming your favorite color at sixteen years of age will be your favorite at a later age to something as crucial as an ideal view of what you should wear, believe, and even who you should love.

Regardless of whether our families of origin may have been supportive and healthy or dysfunctional and harmful, we all have an inherent need for connection and to be fully known, accepted, and loved. Safe relationships such as those in chosen families provide the remedy to the natural need to be fully known and fully accepted and loved, not out of obligation but rather due to simply existing. This unconditional acceptance then provides the support we all need to get through everyday life. We all need validation and encouragement after a rough day of battling depression, anxiety, or even stress at work or school. Of course, this support is also vital if you are dealing with painful memories of trauma, a terrifying medical concern, or when coming out to a friend or family member. In counseling, we have a saying that highlights the importance of safe relationships: “Healing happens in safe relationships.” Therapists focus so much on your support system because we know how impactful it can be as you fight an addiction, face depression, process trauma, struggle with anxiety, or learn to manage any number of mental health concerns.

Therapists value your chosen family so much that we have a process to ensure their involvement in your therapy journey. If you’d like to have your safe person or people involved in therapy, including having them attend sessions, ask your therapist–or ask when you request a therapist– about the process to have your support join in on a session. If you need help finding a therapist or other resources specific to the LGBTQ+ community, we encourage you to take a look at the resources below:


This year’s Memphis Pride Fest is June 1-4!


Navigate to the Counseling Unconditionally tab to find therapists who are LGBTQ+ friendly.

Crisis line, contact by calling 1-866-488-7386,
by texting START to 678-678,
or by visiting the website for internet chat.


We hear you, we see you, and we stand with you. We know times are tough and things aren’t fair. You are so important. You deserve so many good things. You deserve love, compassion, understanding, and most importantly, acceptance. We want you to know that we are here. We are ready to hear your stories, be present with you, connect with your hurts, and celebrate your successes. We are here to stand with you, support you in your fights, and use our voices to help your cause. You are loved and you are cared for. We have hope that one day you will get to live the most beautiful life that you imagined, free of discrimination, hurt, and harm. We hope you get all the good things that you deserve. We hope you find support and strength and courage to just be you. You are enough exactly as you are. We are so proud of you.

With unconditional love, support, and admiration,
Your friends at Ferren Family Counseling LLC