1 in 5 children between the ages of 13 and 18 will be diagnosed with a serious mental illness. Once a child has been diagnosed with a mental health illness it is important that the child is not only seeing a therapist individually, but all the members of the family are also participating in the therapeutic process with the child. Studies have found that there are greater and longer lasting improvements with unwanted symptoms and behavioral issues when the child’s family and/or the people in the child’s life like grandparents, teachers, coaches, etc. get involved in the treatment process.
Family therapy, otherwise known as systemic therapy, focuses on the child’s whole system rather than individual behaviors. In individual therapy, a counselor will take the child out of their familiar environment, treat their symptoms, and return them back to that same environment without even addressing the child’s surroundings and how those surroundings may be impacting the child. In family therapy however, the work is done within the child’s environment including important people in the child’s life. The area of focus in family therapy is on the child’s interpersonal relationships, communication styles, and interactions with others to promote long-term changes that ultimately improve resilience, fosters support networks, and improves family functioning.
Family therapy is not only proven to be effective when helping a child with a mental health or behavioral issue, it is also a chosen mode of treatment for addiction, eating disorders, and schizophrenia.
Some families might have negative connotations surrounding therapy, and may have some reservations about participating with their child because of the common misconception that they will be blamed for their children’s symptoms. In reality the family can be the solution if they are educated on how to best handle the mental illness by giving them:
- An awareness of family patterns
- An ability to work with children in relation to their parents
- An understanding of their family history, traditions, and the impact thereof
- Community resources they may not have been taking advantage of
- Ways to support each other
- Coping Skills
If you or your child has been seeing an individual therapist for a mental illness or addiction, and you have not seen or felt improvement in symptoms, consider family therapy. Bringing loved ones into treatment with you not only allows them to be educated about your mental health diagnosis or addiction, but will teach them how best to support you.
More information about family therapy can be found by clicking the links below.
To your wellbeing,
Alea Makley, MA, MFTC
Clinical Case Manager