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Family intervention

What is family intervention?

Family intervention includes family members in therapeutic sessions with the goal of improving all family members’ mental health and understanding of the disorder. This type of intervention aims to enhance the capacity of both patients and their families for problem solving and illness management. Family interventions have a focus on providing information about the disorder, and emphasizing instructions for medication and treatment adherence. Therapeutic sessions can also involve cognitive behavioural interventions to improve problem solving and communication skills and to reduce familial expressed emotion.

What is the evidence for family intervention?

High quality evidence suggests all types of family intervention reduces relapse rates when compared to standard care, regardless of intervention type and criteria for relapse. Moderate quality evidence suggests family intervention also improves family coping and understanding, and improves patients’ quality of life. Higher levels of effectiveness of family therapy is associated with more intervention sessions and results are strongest after one year post treatment.

High quality evidence suggests family psychoeducation (conveying information about the disorder and promoting better coping) can reduce relapse rates, high expressed emotion in the family, the number of days in hospital, and improve relatives’ knowledge of the disorder and patients’ social functioning. In the longer term (up to 2 years follow up) family psychoeducation can improve patients’ general psychopathology when compared to other non-specific treatments.

Group family intervention may be more effective than standard care at reducing family burden. Moderate to low quality evidence suggests mutual support groups for caregivers may improve families’ and patients’ knowledge about mental illness and coping strategies, and reduce stress and burden.

Also see the impact on families and family relationships topics.

June 2016

Page last updated: 3:36  8 November 2017

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