Understanding the Importance of Family Psychiatric Services

3 min read

Psychiatrists treat multiple patient populations, including adolescents and children, adults who are parents or caretakers, and geriatric patients. Successful engagement with the family is essential to successful treatment.

Many psychiatric facilities provide educational programming for families, called psychoeducation, to help them understand their loved one’s conditions and how to support them best.

Family-Centered Psychiatric Care

Families play a vital role in helping their loved ones navigate health systems and access mental healthcare. Yet, navigating the complex world of mental health treatment can be challenging for families.

Family-Centered Psychiatric Care (FCC) is a holistic approach that involves family members in patient care, from planning to discharge. This type of care encourages patients to share their goals, concerns and needs with clinicians. It also requires clinicians to consider family members’ knowledge, experiences and resources when developing treatment plans.

Research has shown that family psychiatric services is associated with better outcomes in psychiatric inpatient treatment, such as completion of psychiatric advance directives and medication adherence. However, mental health professionals must be trained to work with families and develop a culture of collaboration.

Psychiatrists and Family Members

Psychiatrists need to take into consideration the family context in the treatment of adult patients. They can include this information in the initial assessment, request family presence during sessions, or arrange periodic engagement with families to facilitate family psychoeducation or parent guidance.

Psychiatrists should also assess social conditions that may exacerbate family conflicts, such as a lack of economic resources, discrimination, or community violence. These factors may predict a patient’s psychiatric symptoms or serve as precipitating and perpetuating mechanisms.

Suppose family involvement is contraindicated for any reason, such as the risk of harm to the patient or other family members. In that case, a psychiatrist should openly discuss these reasons with the patient. This will allow the psychiatrist to gain additional insight into problematic family dynamics and can help the patient decide on an alternative treatment plan. Alternatively, the psychiatrist can refer them to a family therapist or mental health care provider.


Psychoeducation is a key component of psychiatric treatment. In group therapy or individual sessions, psychoeducation provides clients the information and resources they need to understand their condition. This knowledge empowers them and allows them to ask questions if they have any, resulting in better outcomes throughout treatment.

Psychoeducation is also important for families to receive. It helps them better understand their loved one’s condition and how to support them. This may include teaching them specific coping skills and how to use them, such as communication and assertiveness training.

Aside from educating clients, family psychoeducation has been proven effective in helping people stick with their treatments. It reduces relapse rates and enhances recovery for individuals with mental health disorders. This approach is especially beneficial for younger populations, such as adolescents. It focuses on their ability to make good choices rather than their limitations or vulnerabilities. This helps them develop a more positive sense of self-efficacy.

Support Networks

For adult patients, psychiatrists may request family involvement during their initial assessment for various reasons, including gathering family history and collateral information, observing interactions between the patient and their family members, and recommending family psychoeducation or therapy. For any family member uncomfortable with their presence during sessions, the psychiatrist should discuss this and obtain written consent to communicate with them outside of sessions.

Psychiatrists should also take the time to assess the patient’s support network and provide guidance when needed. This includes evaluating the quality of these relationships, offering referrals for respite and community services, and helping patients identify sources of natural support.

Families need to have a strong support system so they can get help when they need it. Psychiatrists can provide this support by facilitating healthy communication between family members, increasing understanding, and reducing conflict. This will ultimately make the treatment experience more beneficial for all involved.

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