Ways Psychiatric Services Can Improve Family Dynamics

Family dynamics often play an important role in psychiatric treatment. This is particularly true for psychiatric disorders with psychosocial components.

Understanding ways to promote positive change in the family is crucial to psychiatric assessment. This can help identify biopsychosocial factors contributing to a patient’s presenting concerns.

In addition, family engagement can enhance a patient’s adherence to treatment. It also can dissipate the stigma around mental illness.

Shared Decision-Making

Shared decision-making is a process where healthcare professionals and people who use mental health services work together, in equal partnership, to make decisions about their care. It involves explaining the options for family psychiatric services and testing, discussing their values, beliefs, and preferences, and sharing information about each option’s benefits, harms, and possible consequences.

It also involves exploring the person’s personal goals and preferences and planning for the future. Research has shown that shared decision-making improves outcomes and satisfaction with services.

However, shared decision-making needs to be more understood. One common misconception is that it refers to the use of decision-support tools. Although decision support tools can help to facilitate the process, they are other parts of shared decision-making. Instead, the key to successful implementation is that healthcare professionals adopt a patient-centered approach and focus on building relationships with their patients. This includes being empathetic, listening carefully, and explaining the options clearly.

Empowering Family Members

Families have a unique insight into their loved one’s mental health. They are often the first to notice subtle changes, such as mood swings or withdrawal from social activities. They may also be the ones who help their loved one find and use resources or coping mechanisms for managing stressors.

Psychiatrists can improve family dynamics by providing psychoeducation on family systems and empowering family members to take action. This includes identifying family member needs, providing support, and facilitating referrals to child and adolescent psychiatrists, family therapists, or other mental health professionals as needed.

When a young person with mental illness struggles, families are often their best source of information. They can help educate their youth on how to recognize and cope with symptoms, and they can offer emotional and practical support. However, families can also hinder their youth’s mental well-being. This can be due to various factors, including the stigma associated with mental illness and difficulties communicating openly.

Identifying and Addressing Barriers

Although involving families in the treatment process is ideal, a patient may not choose to engage family members in therapy. Psychiatrists must respect patients’ wishes, especially when they indicate that their involvement will be disruptive to the youth or other family members. This includes cases where a family member is violent, active with drugs or alcohol, or experiencing a psychotic disorder.

Psychiatrists must assess the family’s needs, including strengths and limitations, the youth’s preferences for family participation in treatment, medical and psychiatric history, family support resources, and barriers to family involvement. Then, psychiatrists can recommend a specific approach for addressing these issues. This might include psychoeducation, family psychotherapy, or other family-based interventions.

Barriers to treatment can be caused by various factors, including family stigma and fear of disclosing mental health problems. Reducing these barriers through education, open communication, and fostering empathy is essential for positive outcomes and promoting well-being. Additionally, identifying and addressing cultural factors can help ensure the family is comfortable discussing sensitive topics with the psychiatrist.

Providing Psychoeducation

Psychoeducation educates consumers and their families about the prevention, treatment, and recovery strategies for mental health issues. This can help to reduce family members’ feelings of being overwhelmed, frustrated, or irritable with the consumer and promote more positive, productive interactions. This is a key component of the Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) model, which also includes working with individuals’ natural supports to help develop, expand, and enrich their social support networks.

Psychiatrists often provide psychoeducation through one-on-one therapy sessions, explaining the symptoms of a person’s mental illness or addiction and how it impacts their life. They may also conduct psychoeducation through group therapy sessions, such as multifamily groups, where multiple patients and their families come together to learn from each other and share their experiences. These sessions can be a great way to address barriers to participation, such as family conflict or scheduling challenges. These sessions aim to improve communication, encourage leadership skills, and reduce denial.

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