Family Focused Therapy (FFT)
Serious mental illness can have a devastating impact on an individual’s day to day functioning in life. Increase of symptoms such as mania, depression and/or auditory and visual hallucinations may lead to significant life disruption including frequent hospitalizations and behavioral or even legal problems. At the same time, interactions within the family can negatively or positively affect the afflicted family member. In turn, a mental illness in one family member affects the family as a whole.
While family stress is not the only contributor to relapse in patients (other factors can include life stressors and a biological predisposition to illness), involving all family members in treatment has been found to have substantial benefits in reducing relapses over an 8-year period.
How Does Family Focused Therapy Work?
Family Focused Therapy has been successfully used with families where a member has a diagnosis of a serious mental illness such as psychosis, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. It generally involves all immediate family members in treatment.
There are several stages of Family Focused Therapy.
The stages include:
- Education about the symptoms of mental illness
- Education about the causation of mental illness
- Education about the need for adherence to medication
Because we have learned that negative interactions — or high expressed emotion (“EE”) — in a family can trigger relapse, families also learn communication skills for lessening conflict and dealing effectively with family problems.
Goals for Family Focused Therapy Participants
Through the process of Family Focused Therapy, family members are helped to:
- Accept that a loved one may have a major psychiatric disorder
- Accept that the family member may be vulnerable to experiencing future episodes of illness
- Gain acceptance of a family member’s need for mental health medications.
- Tell the difference between the patient’s personality and his or her disorder.
- Recognize and cope with stressors that may trigger the onset of episodes.
- Create better family relationships with new communication and problem solving tools and skills.
Who can benefit from Family Focused Therapy?
- Adults who are dealing with serious mental illnesses and their families
- Couples where a partner is diagnosed with a major psychiatric issue
- Children and teens who have experienced serious mental illness and their families
Did you know?
Some outcomes of Family Focused Therapy:
- In the 2 year period after treatment ended, only 12% of patients who received FFT had a relapse episode of either mania or depression
- Over the same time period, 60% of those who received individual case management (no FFT) had a relapse episode of either mania or depression
View Dr. Rosenfarb’s PowerPoint presentation about Family Focused Therapy to learn more about its documented benefits for those experiencing psychiatric illnesses and their families.
Contact the Dr. Irwin Ford Rosenfarb at (858) 635-4782 for more information about San Diego family counseling, couples therapy and family focused therapy for families and individuals dealing with serious mental illnesses.