Family Focused Therapy

Types of Therapy

What is Family Focused Therapy? How is it used in treatment for Bipolar Disorder?

Family-focused therapy was developed to help treat bipolar disorder (manic depression). The therapy technique was designed with the assumption that a patient’s relationship with his or her family is vital to the success of managing their illness. Family-focused therapy sessions includes family members with the goal of improving family relationships and creating a support system for treatment.

For many, finding out that you or a loved one is struggling with bipolar disorder, can feel frightening due to the stigma often associated with the disorder. However bipolar disorder is well-understood by the therapist community and can be readily treated by a combination of medications and psychotherapy. While bipolar disorder can be treated in an individual setting, more psychologists are starting to recommend family focused therapy. Family focused therapy often involves bringing in members of the family to help them better understand the disorder and to make sure that they understand their role in the healing process. This form of therapy provides numerous benefits to the family, and it has helped to provide longer lasting positive results.

According to Journal of clinical psychology. 2007 May; Family-Focused Treatment for Bipolar Disorder in Adults and Youth, “Levels of familial expressed emotion during an acute episode are consistently associated with rates of recurrence among bipolar patients.” Utilizing techniques consistent with Family System Therapy, FFT is a time-limited treatment consisting of psycho education, family communication and problem-solving skills.

Family Focused Therapy: How It Helps with Treating Bipolar Disorder

Removes the Fears and Stereotypes of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder has been around long enough to develop a heavy culture of stereotypes. People with bipolar disorder are expected to react in a certain way. It’s not uncommon for family members to be afraid of other members who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Often times, the individual is treated as if she is about ready to “snap.” This is not the case at all. However, the patient is not going to be able to convince her friends and family of this reality on her own in all cases. Family focused therapy brings the family in to talk to them about the issues and make sure they understand what bipolar does and does not mean.

Demonstrates the Role that the Family Should Play in the Healing Process
Bipolar disorder brings with it a number of challenges. Often times, the patient will have to go through a lot of sessions and exercises as well as start receiving certain medications to ensure that healing is taking place. Family members have a role to play in this. Whether it is being understanding of the difficulties or taking some of the stress off the patient, these sessions are intended to help them understand their role in the scenario and how they can help their family member heal even faster.

Addresses Their Needs
Bipolar disorder can result in destructive behaviors that tear at the heart of the family. In some cases, family focused therapy will include marriage counseling components. The patient struggling with bipolar disorder is not the only one who suffers. Family focused therapy recognizes that the other family members have needs as well, and it seeks to address these through services like marriage counseling and psychotherapy. This is also intended to gradually and healthfully show the patient what her family needs from her as well as what she can be doing to make things better. It also gives the family a safe place to express their concerns and their fears. This is particularly common in instances where the bipolar disorder has been marked by violent or aggressive behavior. The sessions serve as a family rebuilding session just as much as for mental healing and development.