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What Is Medical Family Therapy?

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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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    2003-2016
    Conjecture Corporation
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Medical family therapy represents a specialized service to help individuals, couples, or families deal with sudden or chronic illness. It uses an integrated approach to address the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of patients and relatives. Medical family therapy aims to strengthen relationships and ease emotional stress when patients are faced with serious or life-threatening illnesses.

Family therapists commonly employ a biopsychosocial approach to help patients understand the connection between mind and body. Therapy might consist of helping patients intellectually process their diagnoses and deal with negative emotions linked to illness. Methods for relieving stress might be suggested to address any troubles within relationships that influence patients’ quality of life. Reducing stress might also improve immune system functioning and promote healing.

To address spiritual aspects of sickness, a therapist might encourage prayer or meditation as a coping mechanism. Medical family therapy might include information from scientific research about how the mind aids the healing process. Outside resources, such as religious leaders, might work with the therapist and family.

Couples medical family therapy addresses fears and needs of patients in relationships. It might include sex therapy if a medical condition affects that aspect of the couple’s life. Therapists typically receive training in gender roles and identifying the dynamics of various types of relationships.

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Medical family therapists might specialize in treating children and adolescents. Professionals working in this field might use play therapy with younger children to help them cope with physical conditions. Therapists typically work with parents of ill children to provide information about nutrition and maintaining emotional health. Some therapists deal with special needs of military families and common health issues they face.

In cases of chronic or life-threatening conditions, family medical therapy might address physical limitations resulting from disease. Therapists might help patients and their families deal with the grieving process when bodily functions become impaired or lost. If the illness is terminal, therapy might prepare families for death.

These family therapists typically understand psychosocial variations in different socioeconomic groups and within different ethnic groups. Financial worries might arise if the breadwinner in the family cannot work, which affects the entire family. Therapy might help families offer support to the person who is ill and the doctor providing treatment.

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