Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board
North Wales Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service
Family Therapy is about working with families to help bring about change. It is useful for any family in which a child, young person or adult has a serious problem that is affecting the rest of the family (all family members will usually be influenced by the problem and will also be able to influence it), therefore involving families in solutions is often beneficial.
Understanding everyone’s view is important and talking together can help to discover ways to bring about change. It helps family members communicate better with each other. Sometimes, family and friends can find the behaviour of a relative with a mental health problem difficult, overbearing and exhausting. This is normal yet they may be confused by the way they feel and experience emotions ranging from guilt to anger and resentment. A family therapist helps a family understand these reactions.
Whilst the therapy supports the family, it is also beneficial for the person with the mental health problem since it is not uncommon for them to feel an unfair responsibility for what the family is experiencing. This can lead to anxiety and depression and exacerbate the symptoms of any mental health difficulty.
The family may also be unsure about how best to support their relative, and this can be discussed in the therapy sessions so that everyone feels confident and positive. Through family therapy, the person with the mental health difficulty and their family are shown how to support each other.
When young people are referred to specialist CAMHS, there are times when working with a member of the team is recommended. There are times however when a person with a mental illness can find it very supportive to have their family understand their illness, given encouragement, and assist them with everyday life. A family therapist helps the person with the mental illness and those closest to them to understand each other’s feelings and resolve practical day-to-day issues.