Family, the most immediate psychosocial milieu, is pivotal in rehabilitating psychiatric patients. Therefore, psychiatrists should always be attuned to the family context and consider family interventions.
Depending on the patient’s preference, family members may be involved in sessions for various reasons, such as gathering medical history, obtaining collateral information, observing relationship dynamics, and recommending family therapy or psychoeducation.
Mental health isn’t just an individual matter–it impacts everyone around us. Many studies have shown that when loved ones are involved in treatment for a patient with mental illness, they are more likely to stay engaged in care and have better outcomes than those who do not have family support.
Understanding how family factors contribute to psychiatric disorders is an integral part of the biopsychosocial assessment of patients. Dysfunctional family relationships and interactions can precipitate or exacerbate clinical problems, while positive family dynamics can offer support, be protective and supportive, ease emotional and behavioral difficulties, and improve outcomes.
Psychiatrists are encouraged to engage family members in their practice and to assess their needs and competencies about family intervention, particularly when treating adolescents, transition-age youths, young adults, adult patients who are parents or caretakers, and geriatric patients.
This includes discussing their preferred level of involvement, how best to communicate with them, and providing psychoeducation for families and carers.
Family therapy aims to help patients develop healthier coping strategies and improve communication. This can reduce stress levels for the patient and their family members. Studies have shown that when families are involved in treatment, the rehospitalization rate is significantly lower than for those who do not have family psychoeducation.
Psychiatrists should always consider the family factors that can contribute to mental illness. This includes understanding familial beliefs, values, and relationship patterns that can contribute to developing psychiatric disorders and perpetuate distress and dysfunction.
Service users interviewed for the report described barriers to family involvement, including a lack of cultural awareness and an inability to communicate about sensitive issues. Psychiatrists can address these challenges by discussing them with the patient during clinical assessment.
This can include assessing family support, identifying obstacles to participation in therapy, and establishing plans for involving the family in psychoeducation and family-based intervention.
Family members of patients must be included in treatment by family psychiatric services, which is accomplished in various ways. Psychoeducation can help dissipate the stigma around mental illness and educate families on how to support their loved ones recovering from a mental health condition. This helps to reduce the burden of care and stress on carers.
In addition, a focus on family systems theory helps psychiatrists understand how family relationships and context contribute to the presenting problem. For example, adolescents may experience family conflict and dysfunction, increasing their risk of developing mental illness. This can also be the case for transition-age youths, adult patients with a family history of mental illness, and geriatric patients.
Studies show that family intervention programs, such as psychoeducation and group support, improve outcomes in psychiatric patients. This includes a reduction in hospital admissions and improved overall quality of life. This type of approach to treatment is commonly used in child and adolescent psychiatry but is also relevant to general psychiatric practice.
Enhancing Mental Health
Research indicates that treatment outcomes for people with mental illness are improved when family members participate. In addition to providing support and helping to manage symptoms, family members can provide an understanding of the context in which a patient lives.
They can also offer a framework for the values and beliefs that contribute to or perpetuate psychological distress, which is essential in psychiatric assessment.
Psychiatrists need to recognize that family relationships and social context contribute to mental health challenges across the lifespan. This includes assessing family factors and identifying the strengths and resources to facilitate recovery.
For example, in child psychiatry, family involvement effectively reduces relapse rates at the one-year mark. It can be challenging for child and adolescent patients to receive the necessary care and support without family involvement. In such cases, psychiatrists can help to find a family therapist or other specialized services.