Family Therapy Services
When a person suffers from a mental health disorder such as depression or schizophrenia, his family members will most likely be affected in some way. Family members can experience emotional pain, stress, trauma symptoms, shame, and financial problems and may benefit from seeking their own counselling for these issues. Children who are growing up with a parent afflicted by mental illness may be too young to understand why their parent is not well or acting unusually.
Family members may need to address their issues in counseling, not just the person identified with the problem. Also, the family group as a whole can review its family dynamics with the therapist, including the roles, boundaries and communication skills for areas needing assistance. For example, if a person has an active eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa, a parent may need to change her patterns and attitudes which are making her child’s eating disorder worse. The parent may make hurtful comments about body image or overly criticize her child, adding to poor self esteem. The family therapist can assist the child and parent with improving communication skills and perceptions about healthy diet, exercise and appropriate body image. In other words, it is recommended that the entire family be involved in the counselling process, not just the identified patient.
In today’s society, the term “nuclear family” has changed and subsequently has altered how family therapy is conducted. A family may no longer consist of a mother, father and their biological or adopted children living in the same residence. The counsellor treating the family must consider and educate herself about families that have endured divorce and remarriage creating blended families. Children are also raised by single parents or gay couples. Parents who have severe abuse histories or overwhelming conflict with biological family members may also have close support from those they consider to be family although they are not blood relatives.
Emotional stability and mental health is imperative to a child’s overall well being but often is overlooked due to stigma or lack of health insurance. Psychological factors which contribute to children’s mental health are trauma, abuse and neglect. Some families have perpetuated the cycle of violence and child abuse between generations. According to a busy clinic in the Greater New Haven area that treats families from nearby towns including North Haven, Branford and Orange, 80 percent of children in the juvenile system have screended positive to having been exposed to a traumatic experience. If the abuse or trauma is not treated in the child and the parent, the cycle of abuse will just continue.
When an individual suffers form mental health issues, the entire family must be treated. People are influenced and affected by others in their lives and if their childhood involved abuse or trauma, counselling will help stop the cycle of family dysfunction. Family dusfunction involves all family members, therefore, counselling involving the entire system is usually beneficial. In a 2002 study, Liddle and his coworkers concluded that evidence or research based family therapies have shown consistent improvements in families.
For example, with short term family therapy, acting out behaviors in adolescents including drug use and being re-arrested drastically reduced. The numbers recorded in the Liddle study averaged at a 34 percent decrease in these behaviors but they also reached a change of 56 percent reduction. Family therapy doubled the treatment retention rates of adolescents of minority backrounds. Many aspects of the behavior involved in those afflicted with mental illness are learned and carried within the family system. Logically it makes sense to include all family members in the treatment process.