The Importance of Family Therapy in Residential Mental Health Treatment

While a patient receives care in a residential mental health treatment center, the value of family therapy as a part of treatment may have far-reaching benefits. By making a commitment to family therapy, a patient and their loved ones can better understand a condition, strengthen relationships, and find new coping strategies.

After Philip was diagnosed with clinical depression, he made the decision to undergo treatment in a residential mental health treatment center.

Philip, who was in the process of completing his undergraduate degree in communications, was still living at home; his parents were supportive of his actions, though they expressed reservations about the necessity of treatment. At the suggestion of Philip’s psychiatrist, however, his mother and father agreed to participate in family therapy sessions at the treatment center.

Family therapy turned out to be the best possible course of action. Not only did it give his parents important insights into Philip’s condition and help them learn ways they could best support him throughout his recovery, it also unveiled something that would have otherwise remained hidden, perhaps forever: Philip’s father, too, suffered from clinical depression. With the insights into his situation gleaned through family therapy, he was able to receive a professional diagnosis and seek treatment for his condition as well.

The Value of Family Therapy in Treatment for Mental Health Disorders


Family therapy—and its near relative, couples therapy—is a version of psychotherapy often used as part of a comprehensive treatment of mental health and substance use disorders. In the context of family therapy, “family” may include spouses, partners, friends, or members of an extended social network, as well as immediate family members. Family therapy may be adjusted according to whatever criteria the therapist deems most effective, but will likely involve some combination of group sessions and one-on-one meetings between the therapist and the patient, and between the therapist and various family members. Family therapy is often a useful tool in treating the following conditions:

  • Psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia
  • Substance use disorders
  • Mood disorders, which include depression and bipolar disorder
  • Personality disorders, such as narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder
  • Anxiety disorders, including panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder

In addition, family therapy may help mend strained family relationships that come about as a result of stress, tragedy, or trauma.

Family Therapy Has Far-Reaching Benefits


Studies have shown that family relationships are crucial to the long-term efficacy of treatment for mental health disorders. A dysfunctional family is likely to make the effects of an illness worse; in the specific case of bipolar disorder, a family that views the patient in a critical or hostile manner will result in more severe symptoms and more frequent relapses for the patient, compared to a patient with more supportive relationships.

If conductive effectively, family therapy can strengthen family relationships and improve levels of functioning, both as individuals and as a group. It can train family members to help a patient adhere to any medication regimen that may be a part of their treatment and teach them how to respond in a crisis

In family therapy, a family’s firsthand knowledge of the patient’s history, moods, and behavior may be invaluable, especially for conditions in which the patient is unwilling or unable to offer up this information to the therapist on their own. Family therapy may also be useful for improving communication between the patient and family members, reinforcing positive behavior, and learning new coping skills.

While there’s still much unknown about the causes of psychiatric disorders, it’s suspected that many conditions contain at least a partial genetic or environmental component. In other words, a condition that affects an individual has an increased possibility of also being present in the patient’s family members. Within the natural course of family therapy, those disorders may be uncovered, providing family members with the chance to begin treatment for their own conditions.

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Making a Commitment to Family Therapy in a Residential Mental Health Treatment Facility


When a patient is recovering at a residential mental health treatment facility, the precise methods of treatment will vary depending on the patient’s individual needs and condition. If family therapy is involved, each family member will, with the aid of experienced mental health professionals, understand their role in treatment and receive the necessary support to get through what is undoubtedly a stressful situation for everyone involved.

Within the setting of a residential mental health treatment program, family therapy is intensive and requires a commitment of both time and energy. It’s worth the effort: Through family therapy, balance and security may be restored to both the patient and all family members affected by their condition.

Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive residential treatment for people struggling with mental health disorders as well as process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Los Angeles and San Diego-based programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward healing.