The Power of Family Therapy

During my time working with mental health, I’ve had great success involving clients and their families in the treatment process.

Mental health doesn’t happen in a vacuum – it impacts everyone around the individual suffering, particularly their loved ones. Despite this, families are frequently left on the sidelines or, worse, locked out of the treatment process entirely.

Our psychological health is deeply interwoven with our social interactions, experiences, and relationships, and family therapy covers many practices, each taking a unique approach to the myriad of issues families encounter. These methods range from exploring the impact of familial influences to crafting personalised strategies for positive change and looking at the underlying causes of mental and behavioural health problems.

Too often, I worry that service providers underestimate the power of familial bonds in the recovery process. I accept it isn’t always easy, and sometimes, families are apprehensive about becoming involved in their loved one’s journey.

They may be scared they’ll negatively impact their loved one’s treatment, or they could be resistant to the challenging process of having to look in the mirror themselves and recognise their role. However, family therapy, when practised effectively, benefits everyone concerned. It serves as a conduit for open dialogue, better understanding, and enhanced communication within the family unit. It’s an opportunity for everyone to feel valued, to be heard, and to actively participate in the healing process.

Moreover, it helps families develop coping strategies to manage the stressors associated with their loved one’s condition.

Working alongside families has consistently shown me that empathy, understanding, and unity can transform fear and conflict into resilience and healing. It’s a transformative process, not just for the person in recovery but for each family member involved, and multiple studies have shown that it bolsters positive treatment outcomes.

Contrary to the view that family involvement may add stress to the situation, my experience has shown the opposite. A supportive, understanding family creates an environment of care, fostering personal accountability and nurturing the motivation necessary for recovery.

Of course, every family is unique, and a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work; however, the broad range of therapy methods – from multi-family therapy to brief strategic family therapy – allows us to tailor the approach to meet specific needs.

In our mission to ensure that everyone receives high-quality mental and behavioural healthcare, it’s time we move from a model of exclusion to one of inclusion. Families represent a source of strength and resilience that, when effectively engaged, can profoundly influence the recovery journey.

Michael Ishmail, MSc

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