Mental health is not just for a patient in treatment- it’s essential for the entire family. Involvement in psychiatric care improves communication and relationships, helps families learn new coping skills, and ultimately supports the mental health of everyone involved.
While working with families may be outside the scope of general psychiatric training, psychiatrists must have basic family intervention skill sets.
Many families struggle to communicate effectively, especially when a member suffers from mental health issues. Family psychiatric services help improve communication by providing an environment where families can discuss their problems and develop healthier ways of addressing them.
Psychiatrists should consider family factors and relationships in their general practice, recognizing that familial context and functioning influence the development of psychiatric illness and affect illness expression. While attention to biological factors is essential, it must be balanced with recognizing family influence and interaction.
During a meet and greet session, families must ask about the provider’s training and approach to therapy. Families should also seek a provider who offers in-home sessions, which may be more comfortable for some families.
If a psychiatrist does not offer this option, they should be able to provide information about a local family counselor who does. These providers should also be able to provide contact information and a list of conditions they treat.
Psychiatrists are often trained to focus on individual factors for mental illness, but there is increasing evidence that stronger family relationships can help people with mental health conditions. Psychiatrists can help families to recognize and express their emotions more effectively, improve communication skills, and learn how to support each other. Psychoeducation helps to dissipate the stigma that surrounds mental illness and allows families to become pillars of support for their loved ones.
Several studies have demonstrated that family-inclusive practice enhances psychiatric treatment, especially for youth and adolescent patients, adult patients who are parents, geriatric patients, and those with developmental disabilities.
However, it is essential to note that family therapy is contraindicated in cases where the patient’s behavior or condition threatens the safety of others (e.g., abusive or dangerous) and for those who cannot participate in a session due to a psychotic disorder.
Unprompted responses from study participants also confirmed that all seven family-focused engagement practices were what carers and families wanted to receive from psychiatric services.
Family psychiatric services help to improve communication and reduce stress in the home. This allows all family members to relax and feel more comfortable and safe. It also allows members to learn better coping skills.
Attention to family factors is critical in general psychiatric practice because families and family systems play essential roles in individual development across the lifespan and are associated with risk for and perpetuating many mental health challenges.
Dysfunctional family relationships can be precipitating and perpetuating factors for psychopathology, while positive family relationships can be protective, offer support, and alleviate emotional and behavioral problems.
In addition to their expertise in assessing and diagnosing individuals, family psychiatrists can assist with developing and implementing evidence-based family interventions such as family psychoeducation and support, parenting management training, or family therapy.
These interventions can help enhance the effectiveness of treatment for the patient, especially when a psychiatric condition challenges adherence to medication and other therapeutic recommendations.
Family psychiatric services are an integral part of treatment for mental health disorders. Various treatment approaches help families build healthier relationships, improve communication skills, and develop problem-solving strategies.
Using these techniques, family members can identify the issues that cause strife within the household and work toward more harmonious solutions. In turn, this can strengthen relationships and make them more meaningful.
Psychiatrists are trained to recognize the influence of a patient’s family on their condition and use this knowledge to guide treatment. This is essential to developing a comprehensive biopsychosocial formulation and has been endorsed in policy documents.
Psychiatrists should also consider the impact of social contexts on the health and well-being of service users and their families, such as poverty, racial/ethnic discrimination, or community violence.