Family Therapy for Hospital Blues

Being sick or injured is a serious drag, as far as popular consensus is concerned, and with good reason. Physical and mental capabilities may slow down, pain can become an incessant problem, and the feeling of “missing out” on life are all common components of the negative experience of being sick. Add a hospital stay to the equation, and these issues can easily multiply and take on new and depressing forms.

A significant number of hospitalized people experience depression during and/or following their stay.  Traditional approaches tend to placate the symptoms with a battery of medications. But in addition to being expensive, sometimes ineffective, and potentially addicting, these medicines may not be the best path to emotional recovery for those in the hospital.

To investigate the efficacy of new approaches, a study published in the current issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics has put family therapy to the test. As many hospital patients feel isolated from the world and can quickly acquire feelings of loneliness, the potential for family therapy to make a positive impact was wisely assessed. The study’s researchers used both single-family and multi-family therapy approaches to determine which kind of sessions had the greatest results.

Incorporating eighty three hospitalized patients, the study provided a portion with multi-family therapy, while assigning others single-family therapy and providing the control group with physician-directed traditional care only. Test group subjects received this basic care as well. After a period of fifteen months, patients in the multi-family therapy group showed a forty nine percent treatment responder rate and a twenty six percent drop in the use of antidepressant medications. This is significantly higher when compared with twenty four and sixteen percent for the single-family therapy group, and nine and zero percent for the control group.

© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Patricia McBride

    April 13th, 2009 at 6:55 AM

    The idea of family therapy being used for these purposes is really interesting. It is so sad that, despite a wealth of research showing that others forms of therapy are also effective, so little is rolled out by the medical world.

    Speaking as a hypnotherapist, I realise that people can be helped to improved health through psychological means in addition to traditional medical methods. David Hamilton in his book ‘How your mind can heal your body’ outlines numerous reseach projects that support this.

    I guess that no drug company will want to spend money on this type of research when they will make no profits from them. Therefore it must be down to governments or medical insurers to take this type of work further.

  • Kelli

    April 13th, 2009 at 9:10 AM

    Is this mainly a useful tool for those who simply have an extended stay in the hospital or for those who are having to resort to the fact that the hospital is indeed to become a primary residence of sorts for a while or even for the duration of a lifetime? I am also curious about whether this sort of family therapy is cropping up more in assisted living and nursing home types of situations because you know there are many in these facilities who will never see their own homes again and just as many family members who have to work hard to make this an easier transition for any family member who finds him or herself there.

  • Jeff

    April 14th, 2009 at 3:41 AM

    The hospital is always a depressing place- the more they have to offer friends and family the better.

  • Carol

    April 15th, 2009 at 4:12 AM

    I so wish that this was something that my local hospital had to offer when my father was so sick and dying almost twenty years ago. Yes we had great doctors care but no one there to worry about the emotional well being of our family and in particular that of my mother. Once hospice care was called in this was when we got the most emotional support not only for her but also for me and my siblings. That meant more to us that they could ever know. Not only did they help to make my father’s last few weeks more bearable they helped all of us to see that this was really something that was for the best, a time to celebrate for him rather than focusing on what we were losing. If there were more hospitals that offered this type of specialized care even earlier it may save some from so much heartache during the important grieving process.

  • Barb

    April 17th, 2009 at 3:54 AM

    It surprises me that this is a new thing for so many people. My parents both dies a few years back in hospitals in small towns and even then we experienced some of the best care that you could ever hope for. But maybe that is a part of it. In larger cities where you think resources would be more readily available it loses some of the personal-ness that families need. Whereas in a smaller town everyone knows you and they pull together as a community to help you through those trying times.

  • Kyle

    April 20th, 2009 at 5:11 AM

    You would think that as much as hospitals and doctors charge these days for the care that they provide that they could do a better job at offering more small comforts like these to grieving families or even those families who are simply having to stay in the hospital for extended periods of time for whatever reason. This inability on their part to do that shows that money is being misspent in all sorts of ways, yet never on the patients and family members who really need it.

  • Brittany

    April 28th, 2009 at 9:06 PM

    My eldest was in a bike accident with multiple fractures. I am a widow and the last year was very tough. I have the most supportive friends and family. Still I felt like getting him through it was terrible pressure as I constantly felt guilty of neglecting my home, job and other children. He is still in physiotherapy but I can see the end of the road. It is a very difficult situation for anyone to be in.

  • Matt

    April 30th, 2009 at 2:31 AM

    I agree kyle. Its not only hospitals but homes as well. Grief has no propriety anymore.

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