Schizophrenia is a psychological problem that can cause symptoms of decreased cognition, delusions, and paranoia. For family members of people with schizophrenia, managing the symptoms and maintaining healthy relationships can be particularly difficult. However, behavioral family management (BFM) therapy, when based on a positive family-therapist relationship, has been shown to be an effective form of treatment to address these challenges. Phyllis E. Smerud and Irwin S. Rosenfarb, both of the California School of Professional Psychology, Alliant International University at San Diego, recently conducted a study to evaluate the effectiveness of BFM. The researchers said, “The development of a positive alliance has been identified as a central component of effective family psycho-education, and research suggests that the development of a positive alliance plays a critical role in determining the outcome of both individual psychotherapy and family treatments, in general.”
To measure the results of BFM the team enlisted 28 schizophrenic clients and their families who were part of larger study, the National Institute of Mental Health’s Treatment Strategies in Schizophrenia. The researchers used the System for Observing Family Therapy Alliances (SOFTA), which identifies 44 specific behaviors as positive or negative, to evaluate the data. They found that the families that developed positive relationships with the therapist early in the treatment process saw their loved ones exhibit fewer symptoms and lower incidents of hospitalization during the two year following treatment. “When patients developed a positive therapeutic alliance early in treatment, relatives tended to become less rejecting of patients and tended to be less likely to feel burdened in caring for patients over a 2-year period,” said the researchers. They added, “Thus, the data suggest that it may be important for clinicians to engage relatives early in family treatment to prevent the subsequent escalation of psychotic symptoms, and it may be important to engage patients in family treatment to decrease negative family interactions and family burden.”
Smerud, Phyllis E., and Irwin S. Rosenfarb. “The Therapeutic Alliance and Family Psychoeducation in the Treatment of Schizophrenia: An Exploratory Prospective Change Process Study.” Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice 1.(S) (2011): 85-91. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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