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Family-focused therapy

Family-focused therapy (FFT) is a form of psychotherapy that aims to help people with mental health issues and their families cope with the challenges and stressors of living with a mental illness. FFT is based on the premise that family relationships and communication patterns play a crucial role in the recovery and well-being of people with mental disorders. One of the main goals of FFT is to foster a sense of transcendence, which is the ability to rise above one’s current situation and find meaning and purpose in life. Transcendence can help people with mental health issues overcome feelings of hopelessness, isolation, and despair, and enhance their resilience and coping skills. In this article, we will explore the principles and techniques of FFT, and how it can help people with mental health issues and their families achieve transcendence.

What is FFT?

Family focused therapy (FFT) is a form of psychotherapy that aims to help families cope with mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, or substance abuse. FFT is based on the assumption that family relationships play a crucial role in the development and maintenance of these problems, and that improving family functioning can reduce symptoms and prevent relapses.

Family focused therapy typically involves three phases: joining, relapse prevention, and termination. In the joining phase, the therapist establishes a rapport with each family member and identifies their strengths and needs. In the relapse prevention phase, the therapist educates the family about the nature and course of the mental illness, teaches them communication and problem-solving skills, and helps them develop a crisis plan. Finally, in the termination phase, the therapist reviews the progress made by the family, reinforces their achievements, and addresses any remaining issues or concerns.

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Stages of family focused therapy

FFT can be used for various conditions, such as bipolar disorder, eating disorders, substance use disorders, and psychosis. FFT usually consists of four stages:

  • Stage 1: Psycho-education. In this stage, the therapist provides information about the nature, causes, and treatment of the mental health problem that affects one or more family members. The therapist also helps the family understand how the problem impacts their relationships and functioning. The therapist may use behavioural techniques, such as modelling and role-playing, to teach the family skills for managing symptoms and preventing relapses.
  • Stage 2: Communication enhancement training. In this stage, the therapist helps the family improve their communication skills and express their feelings and needs more effectively. The therapist may use psychodynamic techniques, such as exploring how each family member interprets and responds to the problem, to increase empathy and understanding among family members.
  • Stage 3: Problem-solving skills training. In this stage, the therapist helps the family identify and solve specific problems that arise from the mental health problem or other sources of stress. The therapist may use cognitive techniques, such as challenging negative thoughts and beliefs, to help the family develop more positive and realistic perspectives. The therapist may also use solution-focused techniques, such as setting goals and finding strengths and resources, to help the family achieve their desired outcomes.
  • Stage 4: Termination. In this stage, the therapist helps the family review their progress and achievements, consolidate their learning, and plan for the future. The therapist may use narrative techniques, such as encouraging each family member to tell their own story of change, to help the family appreciate how they have grown and overcome challenges. The therapist may also use supportive techniques, such as providing feedback and praise, to help the family maintain their gains and cope with potential difficulties.

Family focused therapy is a flexible and adaptable approach that can be tailored to the needs and preferences of each family. FFT can be delivered in various settings, such as clinics, hospitals, schools, or homes. FFT can also be combined with other interventions, such as medication or individual therapy, to enhance its effectiveness.

Family focused therapy and transcendence

FFT aims to help the family achieve transcendence, which means going beyond their current problems and reaching a higher level of well-being and harmony. FFT can help the family achieve transcendence by:

  • Educating the family about the nature and causes of bipolar disorder, the importance of medication adherence, and the best ways to cope and communicate.
  • Enhancing the family’s problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills, and reducing negative interactions that can trigger mood episodes.
  • Strengthening the family’s emotional bonds and support system, and fostering a sense of hope and optimism for the future.
Benefits of FFT

Some of the benefits of family focused therapy are:

  • It can help reduce the frequency and severity of mood episodes in people with mental health problems by teaching them how to recognize and manage their triggers and early warning signs.
  • Also, it can help prevent relapse and hospitalization by providing a crisis plan and emergency support for people with bipolar disorder and their families.
  • It can help improve the quality of life and functioning of people with bipolar disorder by addressing their emotional, social, and occupational goals.
  • In addition, it can help reduce the stress and burden of caregivers by helping them understand the nature and treatment of bipolar disorder, cope with their own emotions, and access resources and support.
  • It can help enhance the family cohesion and resilience by fostering positive interactions, mutual respect, and empathy among family members.
Example use cases

One example of a use case where FFT has helped families achieve transcendence is in the treatment of bipolar disorder (BD), a mental illness characterized by episodes of mania and depression. According to research, FFT can help patients with BD and their caregivers recover from mood episodes, prevent relapses, and reduce symptom severity.

Family focused therapy can also help families cope with the stress and stigma associated with BD, and foster a supportive and empathic environment for recovery. By learning about the nature of BD, improving communication and problem-solving skills, and expressing emotions in a constructive way, families can transcend the challenges of living with BD and enhance their bonds.

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Another example of a use case where FFT has helped families achieve transcendence is in the treatment of emotional distress and trauma. According to psychology experts, emotionally focused family therapy (EFFT) is a form of FFT that focuses on strengthening the emotional bonds and attachment security among family members. Emotionally focused family therapy can help families heal from relational wounds, such as abuse, neglect, abandonment, betrayal, or loss. EFFT can also help families overcome negative patterns of interaction, such as criticism, blame, withdrawal, or avoidance. By accessing and sharing their core emotions, needs, and fears, families can transcend their pain and create new cycles of responsiveness and intimacy.

Further reading

If you want to learn more about family focused therapy, here are some weblinks for further reading:

Family-Focused Therapies | Psychopathy Treatment Options

Family Therapy: Definition, Types, Techniques, and Efficacy – Verywell Mind

Family-Focused Therapy for Bipolar Disorder: Reflections on 30 Years of Research – PubMed

Family Systems Therapy | Psychology Today

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