About Family Therapy
Research and Evidence-Based Practice
Due to the very complex nature of mental health problems, it is not always possible to know accurately what the best treatment for each condition is. Psychological approaches that are not systematically structured are less suitable to be evidenced through empirical research. Despite these constraints, the field of systemic and family therapy continuously reviews and contributes to Evidence-Based Practice (EBP). EBP[ii] refers to the process of clinical decision-making that integrates three main areas:
(1) The best available research on the most effective treatment for each condition;
(2) Clinical expertise (judgment and experience of the clinician to consider each client/patient’s particular health state and needs) and
(3) The client/patient’s preferences and values.
In the UK, there is a Non-Departmental Public Body responsible for providing national guidance and advice to improve health and social care across the public sector based on research and EBP; it is known as The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence – NICE.
Systemic Family Therapy is recommended in NICE guidelines for the treatment of several child-focused, adult-focused and couple related problems[iii]. Examples of the emotional and mental health problems for which it is recommend include anxiety disorders, depression, grief following parental bereavement, psychosis, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, addictions and self-harm. Some of these conditions might require a multi-modal approach with clinicians from other professional backgrounds such as psychiatry and nursing, as well as additional interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
It is not, however, only people experiencing serious mental health problems that can benefit from professional support. Everyone, at some point in life, has difficulties in their relationships; they may struggle to lead their lives according to their values and goals or they may get stuck in unhelpful or unhealthy patterns of behaviour. Systemic family therapy can also help these individuals, couples and families to reflect on their patterns of behaviour and relationships, to improve communication; to realign themselves with their goals and values in life; and to develop strategies and coping skills to help move their lives in the direction that is most meaningful to them.
[ii] Sackett, D. et al (1996) Evidence-based medicine: what it is and what it isn’t. British Medical Journal, 312, 71-72
[iii] Journal of Family Therapy (2014) Vol 36 (2)