What Is Multi-Family Therapy?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2019
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Multi-family therapy incorporates multiple patients and family members together in group therapy sessions. This approach can be used in a variety of settings for inpatient and outpatient therapy, with varying degrees of intensity. It requires a full commitment not just from patients, but also their family members, as dropping out during therapy can have negative consequences for participants. Mental health facilities, community centers, and clinics may offer multi-family therapy.

During this type of therapy, the patients have similar conditions; they may all be residents of an eating disorder ward, for example, or they could have severe mental illnesses, like schizophrenia. Patients can experience benefits from group therapy, by working with people who share their experiences. The same benefits can be conferred on family members, who may feel less isolated when they participate in multi-family therapy.

Sessions of multi-family therapy can take place daily or less often, depending on the program, and include members of a mixed group. They participate in shared activities, talk, and exchange information and ideas. Family members may find it helpful to learn from other families about how they cope with serious medical issues. Patients can support each other and help families understand their conditions and how to assist them through recovery. The shared experience of mental illness or caring for someone with a psychiatric disorder can bond the members of the group.


This type of therapy is considered confidential. Members do not share proceedings with people outside the group. In addition to attending multi-family therapy sessions, people may also visit care providers on their own. Personal sessions, or sessions limited to single patients and their families, can supplement the group therapy experiences. The best care plan can depend on the patient and the condition, and can be determined by meeting to discuss the situation before starting therapy.

One potential advantage to multi-family therapy is that it can be less expensive. This can be a concern for patients who need to pay out of pocket or who have limited insurance coverage. To stretch funds available for treatment further, these group sessions can create a support network patients and families can use in their daily lives. Patients who befriend each other, for example, can be buddies who provide support on the phone or in person when their partners are struggling. Likewise, family members can establish connections with each other to create their own support groups to help outside of sessions.


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