Posted By Roberta Winters and Sylvia McCreary,
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, May 15, 2013
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"How incessant and great are the ills with which a
prolonged old age is replete.”
- C. S. Lewis
process of aging intrigues me, and has so for much of my time here. Our human bodies begin tiny and frail, grow
strong, create grand things, and then slowly decrease in energy, size, and
(sometimes) ability. Not so different
from the trees outside my window, trees that stand tall, that sway and dance,
and eventually fall. But as I stare out
my window at all those trees, some of them stand out to me. These ones are different in some way. They are not tall and strong; some of them
don’t sway and dance. No, these are different. They have some special pattern about them,
some uniqueness that both stunts their growth and produces a special
character. Limbs are twisted, contorted
into interesting shapes and designs.
These ones cause us to pause.
Disease (PD) is one of many neurodegenerative diseases, and among the most
common. It is progressive and results
from degeneration of neurons in an area of the brain that controls
movement. Any chronic illness will be a
test to the will and determination of the patient, as well as a test to family
and friend relationships. But when PD
patients develop within family and friend relationships that are nourishing,
this can provide the patient with resources that help with their ability to
cope and manage with the progressive symptoms.
have had the distinct pleasure to meet one exceptional lady, Sylvia, who is one
of those trees with a "special pattern.” She has taught me that chronic illness is a
relational illness, and that the persistence and stability of those
relationships surrounding one with PD will help to shape the patterns of
healthy coping that emerge. "You have to
have an advocate. You have to have good
instincts as to who to trust and who not to trust [regarding medical care].” Sylvia discussed with me how difficult it has
been for her and her family to find support.
And the costs that come with any chronic illness are staggering. Costs for prescription medications required
for PD patients are high, and often these medications are not paid for by
insurance companies (including Medicare).
Insurance companies would rather pay for generic brands that sometimes are
not as effective.
worst is not knowing what to expect, and knowing it gets worse,” says
Sylvia. "And being alone.” Loneliness is a theme that repeatedly comes
up with PD patients. You have to include
family members in the illness process, Sylvia noted. She told me that one of the most helpful
things she did was to hold a family meeting, and let her children know what she
was facing, and how is was affecting her.
Sylvia said that her children now call her regularly, knowing that this
little gesture will help their mother manage with difficult days, and times of
"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It
has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to
- C. S. Lewis
"Friends don’t know
what to do, so they do nothing. It’s a
loss.” One of the most difficult things
for PD patients to adjust to is the retreating of friends. "I understand it,” Sylvia says. "I certainly understand it.” But this doesn’t ease the loss, or the pain
of isolation. Care takers of patients
with PD can suffer isolation as well. I
have heard care takers say that they just can’t leave their dear one alone,
just for a moment even; for fear that their loved one will need them. Some of the care takers I have met have told
me that they didn’t get out much… and that friends eventually stop coming
by. I glance around Sylvia’s
kitchen. Her refrigerator is covered
with family photos; her children, their children, someone else’s children. There are a lot of family photos. I supposed it reminds her that they are all
still there, even when they must go to work and school and busy themselves with
after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.”
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I asked Sylvia, "How
long did it take you to accept your illness?”
Sylvia thought, "Ten years.” The
acceptance started when she began to write.
She kept an online journal, and there she would write how she really
felt about the illness. She knew that
she could get it all out safely, where no one else would see. "Art is important,” Sylvia says to me. She says it helps her to relax. I look again around her kitchen, walls
covered with art. And little water
colors, here and there. A table sits in the
corner, housing brushes that had been dipped in water colors; tools for
coping. She usually has her entire
dining table covered in art work, she tells me.
But today, (maybe because I was visiting?) her tools sit in the corner,
laid out on a table.
I’m thinking again
about the tress outside my window. Yes,
most of them are tall and strong, waving and dancing. But today they no longer interest me. How difficult can it be, to wave and dance,
when you are tall and strong. But to
wave and dance when you’re not tall and strong, but seated in a wheelchair, and
surrounded by photos of family and pieces of water colors, these things make "special patterns.” Those twists and
turns that are embedded into the core, they draw our attention.
Parkinson’s Disease is
a relational disease. It shows up,
unexpectedly, in one person’s body, and somehow manages to spread into the
whole family system. It sometimes causes
friends to disappear. But as Sylvia
reminds us, "They don’t know what to do, so they do nothing.” And it is the loneliness that is left. What are the pieces of a progressive chronic
disease, and how do these pieces fit together?
It will benefit us as providers to see these larger system connections,
and to know, while one may carry the disease, the effects ripple outward
through the system. We must always think
of such illnesses as relational, and remember that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
I wish I could have Parkinson’s Disease, and you can run and play.”
-Sylvia’s 4 yr old grandson
|Roberta is a recent graduate of the Marriage & Family Therapy Master's program at East Carolina University (ECU), and presently enrolled in the Medical Family Therapy doctoral program, also at ECU. Her research interests include gerontology (biopsychosocial & spiritual issues in aging), and health disparities in the Latino communities.|
|After being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease 18 years ago, Sylvia McCreary co-founded the Eastern North Carolina Parkinson's support group. As the disease progressed she lost her ability to play the organ and piano, but discovered the joys of painting with watercolors. She has since produced an annual calendar featuring primarily her artwork. A portion of the proceeds goes toward the support of patients with PD. |
Posted By Joshua Fowler,
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
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Curing cancer, from a biomedical standpoint, is now possible, argues TIME Magazine writer Bill Saporito (2013), and is born from our philosophical beliefs about health care and from the practice of team-based, collaborative care. A bold claim, to be sure, but the truth of his claim depends on the meaning of the word "cure”. There are actually multiple meanings for the word "cure”. Saporito posits this: a cure for cancer is available, but is not simple to produce, nor easy to obtain. Still, it is possible, he says, and what makes it so is the harnessing of a collaborative approach by medical professionals from multiple disciplines.
In Saporito’s article, he writes that cancer "dream teams” can now effectively target and treat cancer, resulting in better and faster results that with more traditional biomedical care may not occur. What lays at the heart of these dream teams is collaborative care. Teams consist of professionals from various disciplines, all working together to help patients in a focused and targeted way. Each member has a purpose and a place and no corners are cut if it means even a chance at a slightly less favorable outcome for the patient. Saporito points out in his article the need to "upend tradition” in order to improve health care overall, not just for cancer. Today, people are living longer and chronic diseases (e.g., asthma, diabetes) are more common than infectious diseases (e.g., influenza, pneumonia). Traditional care that was focused on curing and removing disease may not be adequate for the long, drawn-out battles of chronic disease management. The need to change the way we treat diseases is growing, and it is time, as Saporito states, to part ways with traditional care that is only biomedical.
|Perhaps there is something to glean from these cancer "dream teams”. Behavioral health care professionals, who offer biopsychosocial-spiritual care, are uniquely positioned to work alongside other health professionals in support of treatment. Teams of support professionals that work as well as the direct patient care teams that Saporito writes about already exist. At Duke University Hospital, Dr. Cheyenne Corbett, Director of The Duke Cancer Patient Support Program (DSPSP), leads a team of professionals from various disciplines. Though Dr. Corbett’s team is built to provide support rather than direct treatment for cancer, she and her staff take the same approach to health that the dream teams Saporito writes about use.||The need to change the way we treat diseases is growing|
Recently, I had the opportunity to co-present with Dr. Corbett at a doctoral class of mine on childhood and adolescent cancers during which Dr. Corbett augmented my presentation with information on adult cancers, the main focus of the DCPSP. Further, she provided our class with an in-depth look at her team, how she operates, and why the DCPSP is accomplishing its mission "to create a humanistic environment for adults with cancer, as well as their family members, during the stress entailed in diagnosis, treatment, and after-care.”
Dr. Corbett, a trained marriage and family therapist, has a unique understanding of what it takes to support cancer patients to produce better outcomes for them. She and her team have the primary responsibility of acting as liaisons between patients and medical staff, providing hospitality to patients and families in exam rooms, and advocating for patients by helping them understand the resources available to them, including all of the services the DCPSP provides. If a patient wants family involved or a close friend to be nearby to provide support, the team works to make it happen. Professionals work as a team and check in with one another to ensure good care for patients. They look for gaps in patient care and work to close those gaps. The DCPSP is set up to take advantage of the collaborative view of problem-solving. Family is incorporated at every step along the way, and services such as family therapy are provided as part of care. Duke has a new cancer treatment center where the DCPSP is housed and even the building design was made to keep families together and to keep patients at the center of treatment.
Collaborative care, as Saporito writes, is becoming a vital part of healthcare not only between professionals but between patients and providers. As biopsychosocial providers, we should consider taking a look at how are we are encouraging family involvement and cross-disciplinary collaboration in our respective settings. If you are a patient or a family member, you may want to consider how you can advocate for cross-discipline collaboration in your treatment or the treatment of your loved one, and how you can stay involved in the overall treatment and support of your family member or friend who is a patient. These considerations allow us to examine if we are working in a way that is actually collaborative.
Saporito, B. (2013). The conspiracy to end cancer. April 1st, 2013, TIME Magazine. Retrieved from http://healthland.time.com/2013/04/01/the-conspiracy-to-end-cancer/
|Joshua Fowler is a recent graduate of the marriage and family therapy masters program at East Carolina University. |
Posted By Julie Schirmer,
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
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This piece is a reprint of a post from the STFM blog, a regular blog produced by members of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine (http://www.blog.stfm.org/). Reprinted with permission.
Although we should do this every day, periods of transition beckon us to examine what’s important to us as we ask ourselves, "Is this really what we want to do? Are we really living our values?” Medical students will soon move to residency programs and graduating residents will be off to their first jobs in medicine. At the recent STFM Annual Conference in early May relatively new faculty began one of the STFM fellowship programs to enhance their skills as leaders or as new behavioral science/family systems faculty.
At times like this, I am reminded of the "jar of rocks” story that I’ve come across in leadership courses and have used in teaching: A philosophy professor enters her classroom with a large, wide-mouthed glass jar and several bags of items. She asks for a student volunteer to fill the jar, who then places one to two inch rocks into the jar to the very top of the brim. The professor then asks the students if it is full. The students agree that it is full.
She asks another student to pour a bag of small pebbles up to the top of the jar. They flow between the open spaces between the rocks. She again asks the class if the jar is full. The students agree.
|She then pours sand between the spaces, always finding more spaces to fill up the jar. She then states, "This jar represents your life, the large rocks represent everything that is most important to you, such as work, play, family, and love. The smaller rocks are necessary but of lesser importance. Everything else is just sand. The important thing is to be conscious of what the ‘big rocks’ are in your life. Make sure you fit them into your jar before placing anything else in, or they won’t fit. Take time to nurture, support and develop the ‘big rock’ areas, then the ‘smaller rocks’ before putting anything else in your jar.” To this original story, I have added the professor recruiting students to help her. For with helpers around, the rocks don’t seem so heavy and the process has the potential for being more fun. |
I am in transition myself and wonder how I am going to fit new responsibilities into an already full life and schedule. Starting May first, I begin my journey as the new Director of the STFM Behavioral Science Family Systems Educator Fellowship (BFEF) Program, along with the 15 new educator fellows from family medicine residency programs all around the country. The fellowship is one of my "big rocks.” At this later stage in my career, it’s important to nurture and support the next generation of behavioral science faculty leaders in family medicine. It’s that "generativity” thing! I am helped by a large community of able colleagues, including STFM staff and seasoned behavioral science and family medicine educators who serve as mentors, fellowship faculty and steering committee members. This prevents me from feeling overwhelmed as to everything that I have to do for the fellowship on top of my other work and life responsibilities.
Medicine is a continually changing field, which can be exciting and overwhelming - often at the same time. Wherever you are in your life or career, take time to routinely visit and examine the ‘big rocks’ in your life and strive towards valued living. Listen to your body, mind and spirit. If you are feeling "off balance”, make sure the rocks are in their right places. Recruit colleagues and other members of your "team” to help lift the weight off your shoulders and to create a better world.
I welcome others' stories about recommendations for living the most vital and meaningful life and about maintaining balance in this fast-paced, internet-heavy world.
|Julie Schirmer, LCSW is Director of Behavioral Health at the Family Medicine Department of Maine Medical Center and Assistant Director of the Family Medicine Clerkship at Tufts/Maine Medical Center School of Medicine. She is Co-chair of the North East Regional Integrated Care Learning Community, Past President of the Family Medicine Education Consortium, and Director of the Behavioral Science/Family Systems Educator Fellowship of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine. She is author and co-editor of Behavioral Health in Primary Care: A Global Perspective (Radcliffe, 2010).|
Posted By Aubry N. Koehler,
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
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This past fall, the
European Heart Journal published an article on the increased risk of
depression, anxiety, and suicide for spouses of partners who had suffered heart
attack within the past year, when compared to spouses of partners with other hospitalizations
et al., 2012)
To family-oriented clinicians, this comes as little surprise.
The burden of medical crisis is carried not only by patients but also by
their families and communities, especially when need for caregiving requires
shifts in household and occupational roles.
Beyond the biological and logistical components, patients and families
must also cope with accompanying emotional, psychological, social, and
spiritual ramifications of crisis which can manifest as feelings of confusion,
hopelessness, fear, and isolation. And,
as Fosbøl and colleagues suggest, there may be something particularly
distressing about a loved one’s heart failing him or her.
While we have been
trained to look at the systemic impact of health and illness, the medical
contexts in which we work are just beginning to adopt this lens. The rise in the popularity of
patient-centered medical homes where patients can receive their medical and
behavioral health treatment from collaborating providers under one roof is a
move towards health care that considers the biopsychosocial needs of the
adoption of a systemic lens in health care is taking place within an
individualist paradigm. Electronic
health records are not set up for charting relational cases and insurance
companies require providers to bill under a single identified patient.
|Does this sound like
a revolution to you?
A paradigm shift?
I hope so.
But let us not
scapegoat the medical context. The individualist
paradigm pervades the majority of US institutions and is a paradigm that we and
the public generally endorse and enact in our day-to-day lives. As consumers, I believe we are not only
subject to institutional constructs, we also have a hand in how institutions
are constructed and adapted. We all have
some degree of agency—albeit, less or more depending on our socioeconomic power
and privilege—in changing health care through the policies we support, the
health care resources for which we advocate, and the ways in which we access
The fact that national
media reported Fosbøl and colleagues’ findings is perhaps an indication that
this is news to the public. Consumers may not consider the ways in which
medical crises in family members can impact their physical and emotional
wellbeing. Without structures in place
to offer relational treatment, consumers may not think to request family
support. Further, even if they do
recognize a need for behavioral health support, it is unlikely that family
members of ill loved ones will have the energy or time to advocate for
themselves in the midst of crisis.
So, what can we do as
practitioners to help patients and families access medical and behavioral
health support? We can start by
continuing to carry our own systemic lens into all of our encounters with
patients, families, providers, and medical staff. We can educate patients and families about
the relational impact of illness in a loved one and connect them with
resources, as needed. We can also be a
part of advocating for changes in medical and behavioral health care delivery
at the administrative level in the medical contexts where we work and on the
level of the state and federal policies that will best support these changes.
We still have a great deal of work
to do in substantiating our relational approach to health care. While the merits of this approach may seem
obvious to us and others within our field, we need to show everyone—from policy
makers and insurance company executives to the general public— how needed this
kind of approach is and the positive health care outcomes to which it can and
Does this sound like
a revolution to you? A paradigm shift? I hope so.
Imagine a world in which our medical contexts are set up to treat the
family as a whole. Where family members
are educated about the relational impact of illness in a loved one on their own
wellbeing and not only have resources available to them, but feel comfortable
reaching out and accessing those resources.
Better yet, imagine a world in which those resources are offered automatically
to families experiencing medical crisis, so they can then use their agency to
opt in or out of receiving them. Let us
as practitioners help to envision and evolve a system that reaches out to the
whole network of hearts that makes up our world.
Fosbøl, E. L., Peterson, E. D.,
Weeke, P., Wang, T. Y., Mathews, R., Kober, L., Thomas, L., Gislason, G.H., and
Torp-Pedersen, C. (2012). Spousal depression, anxiety, and suicide after
myocardial infarction. European Heart Journal, 34, 649-656.
|Aubry Koehler, MA, LMFTA, is a first-year
Medical Family Therapy doctoral student at East Carolina University in
Greenville, NC. She has interned as a
behavioral health specialist in integrated care settings over the past two years
and is especially interested in the impact of chronic illness on the family
system, culturally sensitive care, and closing health disparities. Aubry earned her Master’s of Arts in Marriage
and Family Therapy from Antioch University New England in 2012.|
This post has not been tagged.
Posted By Jonathan Wilson,
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
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When I began
my training as a marriage and family therapist, I never imagined I would work
in a healthcare setting. My misguided
preconceptions about the separation of mental and biomedical treatment clouded
my ability to truly provide therapy from a biopsychosocial lens. Since the first semester of my master’s
program, my research interests seemed to gravitate toward domestic violence and
its impact on couple and family relationships.
One of the recommendations included in the discussion section of my
master’s thesis, which examined the influence of attachment and aggression in
couples, was for MFTs to include attachment screenings during the intake
process to aid in identifying women experiencing intimate partner violence
(IPV). Even then, I believed in the
value of screening for IPV, but never consider the role of screening outside
the box of the traditional family therapy setting.
healthcare providers treat diverse groups of patients on a daily basis as part
of an integrated team. As patients continue
to present with various comorbid medical and psychosocial problems, which
mutually influence one another, the need for provider competence in responding
to psychosocial issues is sizeable.
Patients experiencing IPV represent a particularly vulnerable population
to which family-oriented clinicians and systemic therapists alike can provide help and resources. The process of identifying and responding to
IPV in integrated care is often difficult to maneuver, and for some providers,
when it comes to their patients’ experiences with IPV, sometimes it is easier not
to ask than to ask and not know what to do.
|IPV is a
serious public health problem (Garcia-Moreno, Jansen, Ellsberg, Heise, &
Watts, 2006) with substantial consequences for women’s physical, sexual, and
mental health (Campbell, 2002). One
source indicates that more than 25% of women experience IPV at some point in
their lives (Black et al., 2011). Despite
the prevalence of IPV and recommendations for universal screening from various
professional organizations and the Institute of Medicine (IOM 2011), most
providers choose not to screen their patients for IPV victimization (Jonassen
& Mazor, 2003). Some sources
indicate that only 1.5% to 12% of female patients were screened about possible
physical abuse from their partner (Caralis & Musialowski, 1997; Hamberger,
Saunders, & Hovey, 1992).||Choosing not to seek out and lend aid to women in abusive
relationships would be contradictory to our calling as healthcare
providers have tremendous potential to identify women experiencing IPV and to
lend aid. Their cautionary positions
toward IPV screening seem to be based upon concerns that screening for IPV may
(a) be overly invasive; (b) isolate patients; and potentially (c) increase
violence (Todahl & Walters, 2011). Although
most physicians receive training on IPV in medical school (Jonassen &
Mazor, 2003), barriers to IPV screenings remain, such as lack of provider education
regarding IPV (Waalen et al., 2000), and lack of self-assessed competence in
identifying IPV (Jonassen & Mazor, 2003).
Women experiencing IPV have identified
barriers as well – most of which pertain to the screener and screening
environment. Specifically, women tend to
prefer to be screened by a woman, someone of the same race, a provider aged 30
to 50 years, and without anyone present (Thackeray, Stelzner, Downs, &
Miller, 2007). It is probable that many
physicians are unaware of these patient boundaries. I contend that collaborative healthcare
providers have the potential to break down these barriers that providers and
patients have constructed.
care settings are ideal for identifying and providing assistance to women
experiencing IPV. Physicians, nurses,
mental health workers, medical assistants, and every other provider within the
system have the ability to "bridge the gap,” so to speak, between the
identification of women experiencing IPV and responding appropriately with
necessary resources. Women are typically
screened via a formal written assessment or a single question on their intake
paperwork. The American College of
Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG, 2012, pg. 3) compiled a list of screening
protocols based upon the preferences of their patients regarding written
- Screen for
IPV in a private and safe setting with the woman alone and not with her
partner, friends, family, or caregiver.
professional language interpreters and not someone associated with the patient.
- At the
beginning of the assessment, offer a framing statement to show that screening
is done universally and not because IPV is suspected. Also, inform patients of the confidentiality
of the discussion and exactly what state law mandates that a physician might
screening for IPV into the routine medical history by integrating questions
into intake forms so that all patients are screened whether or not abuse is
and maintain relationships with community resources for women affected by IPV.
- Keep printed
take-home resource materials such as safety procedures, hotline numbers, and
referral information in privately accessible areas such as restrooms and
examination rooms. Posters and other
educational materials displayed in the office also can be helpful.
- Ensure that
staff receives training about IPV and that training is regularly offered.
group of researchers indicated that women preferred a patient-centered
screening approach more than a written screening approach (McCord-Duncan et
bottom of this blog entry, I’ve included a few helpful links to consider for
those willing to screen for IPV among their patients. The "HITS” domestic violence-screening tool
(Sherin, Sinacore, Li, & Zitter, 1998) is a simple 4-item screening tool
with demonstrated reliability and validity (see Sherin et al., 1998). For a thorough list of screening tools
available, I would encourage you to review the systematic review published by
Rabin, Jennings, Campbell, & Bair-Merritt (2009), which summarized IPV
screening tools tested in healthcare settings and discussed psychometric data
of each tool.
I’ve also included contact
information for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which, on the date of
this blog entry, is open 24 hours a day.
Providers are encouraged to make themselves aware of the local resources
available in their regions – particularly shelters for battered women and any
local resources to provide further assistance. Representatives from the local
shelters or family violence centers are typically more than happy to come and
give a formal or informal talk about what resources are available in your
there is much still to be learned about IPV screening, we are knowledgeable
enough that choosing not to seek out and lend aid to women in abusive
relationships would be contradictory to our calling as healthcare
providers. Without our assistance as
physicians, nurses, systemic therapists, or any other healthcare provider, the
violence experienced by these women will continue. Family-oriented clinicians, especially those
in integrated care settings, can pave the way for higher identification rates
of IPV and, more importantly, increased aid for women experiencing IPV.
screening methods do you use in your practice? How is collaboration a part of
your protocol? Did you have an experience with IPV in your practice that was
transformative in the way you work with patients experiencing IPV? If so, what
happened and what did you learn through that experience?
Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE
(7233) or www.thehotline.org
ACOG. (2012). Intimate partner violence: Committee
opinion no. 518. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 119, 412–417.
M. C., Basil, K. C., Breilding, M. J., Smith, S. G., Walters, M. L., Merrick,
M. T., Chen, J., et al. (2011). National intimate partner and sexual
violence survey (NISVS): 2010 summary report. Atlanta, GA.
J. C. (2002). Health consequences of intimate partner violence. The Lancet,
359, 1331–1336. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(02)08336-8
PV, Musialowski R. (1997). Women’s experiences with domestic violence and their
attitudes and expectations regarding medical care of abuse victims. Southern Medical Journal, 90, 1075-1080.
C., Jansen, H. A. F. M., Ellsberg, M., Heise, L., Watts, C. H., & Study, W.
H. O. M. (2006). Prevalence of intimate partner violence : Findings from the
WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence. Lancet,
368, 1260–1269. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(06)69523-8
LK, Saunders DG, Hovey M. (2002). Prevalence of domestic violence in community practice
and rate of physician inquiry. Family
Medicine, 24, 283-287.
of Medicine. (2011) Clinical preventive services for women: closing the gaps.
Washington, DC: The National Academy of Sciences.
J. A., & Mazor, K. M. (2003). Identification of physician and patient
attributes that influence the likelihood of screening for intimate partner
violence. Academic Medicine, 78(10), S20–S23.
McCord-Duncan, E. C., Floyd, M., Kemp, E. C.,
Bailey, B., & Lang, F. (2006). Detecting potential intimate partner
violence: Which approach do women want? Family Medicine, 38(6),
416–22. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16741840
Rabin, R. F., Jennings, J. M., Campbell, J. C.,
& Bair-Merritt, M. H. (2009). Intimate partner violence screening tools: a
systematic review. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 36(5),
Sherin, K. M., Sinacore, J. M., Li, X., &
Zitter, R. E. (1998). " HITS ” A domestic violence screening tool for use in
the community. Family Medicine, 30, 508–512.
J., Stelzner, S., Downs, S., & Miller, C. (2007). Screening for intimate
partner violence. Journal of
Interpersonal Violence, 6, 569-670.
J., & Walters, E. (2011). Universal screening for intimate partner
violence.: A systematic review. Journal
of Marital and Family Therapy, 37, 355-369.
J., Goodwin, M. M., Spitz, A. M., Petersen, R., & Saltzman, L. E. (2000).
Barriers and Interventions. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 19,
|Jonathan Wilson is a licensed marriage and
family therapy associate and provisional certified family life educator. He received his master’s degree in Marriage
and Family Therapy from Oklahoma State University and is currently enrolled in
the doctoral degree program in Medical Family Therapy at East Carolina
University. His interests include
intimate partner violence, psychopathology/psychopharmacology, and family
therapy training outcomes.|
This post has not been tagged.
Posted By Elizabeth Patrick,
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
| Comments (0)
morning for the past two years, my friend and I have taken our dogs to the
neighborhood park. On those mornings, rain or shine, we share the park with a
Vietnamese couple in their sixties. We have come to expect to see one another
every day and have begun our own unspoken ritual of waving and exchanging a
pleasant "good morning.” The couple comes to the park to exercise and over the
years they have captured my heart and attention because of the apparent love
and care that they have for one another. I have had the privilege to witness
how much this couple values mutual health-positive behaviors.
describe some of the sweet moments I have witnessed from this couple. First,
the husband seems to struggle with a health-related challenge and is in a
wheelchair most of the time. He appears to count on his wife for assistance and
care. I have become familiar with their routine, as I’m sure they have become
with ours. They walk from their home which is about a quarter of a mile away.
Sometimes the wife pushes the husbands’ wheelchair, other times she is
stabilizing him on one side as he walks |
for a short time in a slow and
who face chronic
gender roles and
more mutual or
Once they arrive at the park, they approach a cement bench
that they use as a sort of "home base”. The wife begins to work with the
husband as he gets his physical activity going. He spends about 10-15 minutes
on his feet and while holding onto his
wife, he bends, squats, steps and stretches. His exercise comes first. Once he
has finished, he takes a seat on the bench or in his wheel chair, relaxes, and
begins to encourage and observe his wife as she starts her morning workout. She
has a number of workout courses that she has created at the park, keeping
things relatively new and fresh for herself. She may do some push-ups on an
incline, walk up and down a steep hill, or speed-walk up and down the front of
the park. As she works out, her husband is close by, watching, smiling,
enjoying his wife’s exercise process. Imagine also that this is a couple that
is soft and patient with one another. Never upset, always encouraging.
I recall what I observe every morning I find myself smiling at the couples’
love and care towards one another. However, I also know that when one spouse
becomes sick a lot changes in a relationship. Often the person who gives care
can experience lack of personal health as they put the ill spouse first. However,
the couple at the park has shown me that there can be joy and connection
through a shared experience of health, illness and care. This has been
particularly valuable for me as I am working on research related to a
relational orientation towards illness, in other words, shifting from a "my”
illness to an "our” illness orientation.
& Badr, 2005; Burwell, Templeton, Kennedy,
& Zak-Hunter, 2008; Dankoski & Pais, 2007; McDaniel
& Cole-Kelly, 2003) have highlighted that female spouses easily adapt
to a relational orientation of illness.
As a result, this process has the potential to further burden the female
partner when disparities in power between males and females in the relationship
are not attended to. When females, or
the well partner, take on a greater degree of relational responsibility than
their spouse, it is common for relational strain to increase. Therefore, it is important to recognize and
highlight that a process within the relationship must continually occur so that
each spouse takes a role in the mutual processing of ‘our’ illness experiences (Kayser,
Watson, & Andrade, 2007).
who coped with their chronic illness by confronting challenges and expressing
feelings and experiences openly had greater overall marital satisfaction, as
did their husbands (Badr, 2002; Acitelli & Bahr, 2005). This same "active” coping from the wife is
associated with greater marital satisfaction for ill husbands as well. From a gender lens, this suggests that the
couple is not mutually engaged in an "our” orientation towards illness. Instead,
the illness experience is being shaped by gendered power processes that place
the primary relational burden on the female partner.
couples who face chronic illness, traditional gender roles and processes are
challenged and often redefined, sometimes becoming more mutual or egalitarian (Dankoski
& Pais, 2007). Whether
couples progress to more egalitarian styles of coping or revert to more
traditional gendered patterns, flexibility is a key issue. In fact, Cross et al., (2001) found that
inflexible gender roles often lead to difficulty and distress for couples and
families and can potentially lead to separation or even divorce, especially
when the female partner is the one who becomes ill.
I only see the Vietnamese couple for about an hour each day and only observe
their exercise process, I feel as if I get to witness a
care-giving/care-receiving relationship that is oriented around the couples’ experience of health and
illness. I see flexibility in their gender roles, mutual support, and care. I find
that I look forward to seeing my park friends every morning. I am encouraged by
Acitelli, L. A.,
& Badr, H. J. (2005). My illness or our illness? Attending to the
relationship when one partner is ill. In T. A. Revenson, K. Kayser & G.
Bodenmann (Eds.), Couples coping with
stress: Emerging perspectives on dyadic coping. Washington, DC: American
Badr, H., Carmack, C. L., Kashy, D. A., Cristofanilli, M.,
& Revenson, T. A. (2010).
Dyadic coping in
metastatic breast cancer. Health
Psychology, 29(2), 169-180. doi: 10.1037/a0018165
Burwell, S. R.,
Templeton, B., Kennedy, K. S., & Zak-Hunter, L. (2008). Feminist-informed
medical family therapy principles and techniques across biopsychosocial systems
levels for younger women with breast
cancer and their partners. Journal of
Feminist Family Therapy, 20(2), 99-125.
Dankoski, M. E.,
& Pais, S. (2007). What's love got to do with it? Couples, illness, and
MFT. Journal of Couple & Relationship
Therapy, 6(1), 31-43.
Kayser, K., Watson, L. E., & Andrade, J. T. (2007). Cancer as a
"we-disease": Examining the process of coping from a relational
perspective. Families, Systems, &
Health, 25(4), 404-418. doi: 10.1037/1091-75184.108.40.2064
McDaniel, S. H., & Cole-Kelly, K. (2003). Gender, couples, and
illness: A feminist analysis of medical family therapy. In L. B. Silverstein
& T. J. Goodrich (Eds.), Feminist
family therapy: Empowerment in social context (pp. 267-281). Washington,
DC: American Psychological Association.
|Beth Patrick is a third-year PhD MFT
student at Loma Linda University and has worked at the Loma Linda
Transplantation Institute for the past two years. She has also spent a
year working in Primary Care as a part of an
integrated healthcare team. Her professional interests include medical
family therapy, teaching and mentorship, and socially just/contextual
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Posted By JoAnn Tschanz and Randall Reitz,
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
| Comments (1)
JoAnn Tschanz, psychologist at Utah State University, recently published research connecting specific family caregiver strategies with decreased dementia in their loved ones. Dr Tschanz discusses her groundbreaking study in this interview with Randall Reitz.
Randall Reitz: Your data indicate that people with dementia tend to have better outcomes if their family caregivers use certain coping strategies. The coping strategies that made a difference were: problem-focused coping, counting blessings, seeking social support, and wishful thinking. What are these coping strategies and how do you believe they translate to improved outcomes for people with dementia?
JoAnn Tschanz:These coping strategies are from a larger set of eight strategies in what researchers indicate either address the source of the problem (problem-focused) or seek to manage distress. Counting blessings would be similar to looking at the bright side of things, seeking social support would be akin to talking out your problem with a friend, and wishful thinking would be similar to hoping for the best.
The majority of the strategies did not predict the rate of cognitive or functional decline in the person with dementia. Problem-focused coping and seeks social support predicted slower cognitive decline in dementia participants; problem-focused coping, seeks social support and wishful thinking were associated with slower functional decline. However, because we also saw evidence that use of the coping strategies were associated (e.g., someone who used problem-focused coping may also have a tendency to use the other coping strategies as well), we ran additional statistical models to see which were independent predictors. This is where caregiver problem-focused coping was the strongest predictor of slower cognitive and functional decline in the person with dementia.
Although we do not yet know how problem-focused coping was associated with slower decline, we hypothesize this could reflect a caregiver who is able to adapt flexibly to meeting new challenges and tries to solve problems as the dementia progresses. For example, a troubling behavior (wandering) might emerge. A caregiver using problem-focused strategies might operate under the hypothesis that the patient doesn't recognize their surroundings and so displays, familiar items like family pictures and other decorations that the patient recognizes. Other possibilities include engaging the patient in stimulating activities as other research has found an association between cognitively stimulating activities and slower progression of dementia.
RR:What surprised you most in your analysis?
JT: We hypothesized that problem-focused coping was associated with slower progression and our findings were consistent with that hypothesis. However, we also thought that other coping strategies like Avoidance and Blames Self or Others would be associated with worse outcomes, but this was not the case. These strategies were not associated with rate of cognitive or functional decline.
RR: Your sample comes mostly from one county in rural Utah, do you have any concerns that your data are community-specific?
JT: This is a great question. Although our sample consists of residents of one county in Utah, in some ways our data may actually generalize more broadly to others since the study was based on a population-based sample rather than a clinic-based sample. The latter tend to include individuals who are younger, more highly educated, and those who may have more severe symptoms. That said, the majority of our participants were Caucasian and averaged over 12 years of education, so the results may not generalize to populations with greater ethnic or educational diversity. Studies in other samples are needed to determine whether our results are replicated.
RR: How do you hope your findings will impact the field of collaborative family healthcare?
JS: Many health care providers have not thoroughly looked to the care environment as a place to intervene, other than to help reduce caregiver distress and stress-related illnesses. Our findings suggest that the care environment may be a place to intervene to promote the highest level of functioning in the person with dementia. In this way, caregivers could be trained to problem solve various care management issues that arise, and feel empowered to make a difference in the care of their loved ones.
Rather than looking at dementia as a progressive condition where the caregiver and patient are helpless, ideally, the caregiver and patient could take an active role to work with their health care providers and devise a care management plan. In that plan might be ideas to address challenges that commonly arise for many patients, and likely would include use of formal resources available in the community.
Our findings suggest that the care environment may be a place to intervene to promote the highest level of functioning in the person with dementia.
RR: How do you see your research evolving and in what direction would you like the field to go?
JT: We've found other aspects of the care environment (such as closer relationships and participant engagement in stimulating activities) to be associated with overall better cognitive and functional abilities in dementia. We'd like to follow-up our results to get a better understanding of potential mechanisms and whether they're also predictive of important clinical milestones such as severe disability or institutionalization. Additionally, our results are observational only so we cannot draw cause-effect conclusions.
Ultimately, I'd like to develop an intervention and test that intervention in a study that randomizes treatment to participants and has an appropriate control group so we can draw firmer conclusions from this line of research. I would really like to see the field emphasize non-medical and non-pharmacological approaches to treating all aspects of dementia and really engage the caregiver as a primary source participant in the patient's treatment.
RR: JoAnn, thanks for your contributions to collaborative family healthcare and to the Families and Health blog!
JoAnn Tschanz is Professor in the Department of Psychology and faculty in the Center for Epidemiologic Studies at Utah State University. She is a clinical neuropsychologist and has studied risk factors for Alzheimer's disease and other dementias as well as factors that influence the clinical expression of dementia after disease onset. She has published over 80 papers in scientific journals and books, and is the recipient of grant funding from the National Institute on Aging.
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Posted By Aimee Galick,
Thursday, April 4, 2013
| Comments (2)
I just finished a MedFT clinical internship at the
Loma Linda University Transplantation Institute where I worked with couples in
which one member was severely chronically ill and needed a kidney or liver
transplant. Using SERT as my organizing theory, I have a heightened awareness
of how emotional and tangible support, caregiving, and impact of the illness on
the family typically differs depending on whether the patient is a man or
woman. A recent study by Glantz et al. (2009) affirmed these ideas as it
documented divorce rates in patients diagnosed with a brain tumor, cancer, or
MS and found that 11.9% of marriages ended after the introduction of these
serious illnesses and in 88% of these separations the ill person was the woman,
compared to only 12% of men.
abandonment,” the researcher’s label for the phenomenon, resulted in poorer
health outcomes in patients, more hospitalizations, higher use of
anti-depressants, and less compliance with treatment regimens. This study
supports the notion that relationships are important to both physical and
mental health and it also confirms what I have seen in my practice with severely
ill patients - women are more dedicated to the care of their sick partners. Why
does this happen?
I have been involved in a clinical research group
led by Dr. Carmen Knudson-Martin and Dr. Douglas Huenergardt at Loma Linda
University. The group developed a model of couple’s therapy, Socio-Emotional
Relational Therapy (SERT), which centralizes power in the conceptualization of
influence, responsibility, and support in intimate relationships (Knudson-Martin & Huenergardt,
|Gender is one of the more obvious
sources of power, or lack thereof, but we also look at how culture, SES,
religious beliefs, and the intersection of these social categories influence
power within relationships and of partners in relation to society. We believe
that power differentials between partners prevent them from being able to
actualize mutually supportive relationships and
that dominant ideas about what
it means to be male and female contribute to this imbalance. Looking at the
gender difference in partner abandonment with a
SERT lens I have an idea about
why this occurs.
|I think for most people in our Western society there
is an entitlement to personal happiness over the needs and happiness of others.
So why should anyone suffer to care for a sick person?
I think for most people in our Western society there
is an entitlement to personal happiness over the needs and happiness of others.
So why should anyone suffer to care for a sick person? I have heard things like,
"this isn’t what I signed up for, she/he is not your responsibility, and you
need to do what is best for you.” No one
in this culture wants to be a burden, but I think there is a gender difference.
I frequently hear women who are sick,
say they feel bad for being a burden to their loved ones and this is one of their
greatest sources of stress.
Men, on the other hand, don’t report this as often
and seem to have a sense of entitlement to receive care when they are ill. There
do not appear to be the same societal pressures on men to stay with an ill
partner, but a woman who leaves a sick man? What is wrong with her! What a
terrible person!! These strong messages about male and female responsibilities
often place a heavier burden and more pressure on women. I think men may
abandon their sick partners out of a sense of entitlement to not being bogged
down. I also think that fear about inadequacy around caregiving and their
ability to cope with the level of stress that comes with a loved
one’s serious illness plays a major role.
This fear of inadequacy may play a
larger part than the sense of entitlement, but I think it may be easier for men
to go to the place of "this isn’t what I signed up for” rather than "I am
really scared, I don’t know how to be a caregiver, and I don’t want to get
closer to someone I will likely end up losing.” Another contributing factor is that
when a female partner becomes sick, she
does not have as much time and energy to devote to caring for the relationship
and her partner – so things fall apart.
The couples I see are often in the beginning stages
of adjusting to having a serious illness intrude into their partnerships, which
allows me to intervene often before
the illness has done serious damage. At this crucial point in the illness
trajectory, couples have not yet considered what motivates their behavior in
relationships. I often use my personal and clinical experiences around gender
differences which facilitates the joining and that is crucial for the next
For men, I give voice to what I
think they can’t because it is too vulnerable. I voice the presence of fear, not-knowing, feeling inadequate, and
doubting their abilities to handle this. I also voice how I think they wish they could be in relationship. This
allows us to go to a place where we can discuss ideas in society which have
likely influenced their behaviors, thoughts, and feelings within relationships.
This can take away the shame and guilt they have about being relationally inadequate.
Having a strong therapeutic relationship is key to setting the tone in which
this vulnerable conversation can take place and new possibilities can be
Some people might be asking themselves, what about
the women? How can we help them in this
process? Good question. It would be incongruent with my beliefs about power to
follow this post with suggestions about how to work with women because I don’t
believe they have the same power as men to influence others. I would be happy
to write another post on the issue if there is a demand for it.
Despite the many difficulties couples can encounter,
I often find the introduction of illness can be positive in that it can bring
partners closer than they ever imagined. This happens when instead of one
partner turning toward the illness, both partners turn toward one another. I
feel so privileged to be a part of this amazing process!
If you wish to learn more about SERT and mutually
supportive relationships you can visit our website at equalcouples.com or
contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Knudson-Martin, C., & Huenergardt, D. (2010). A
socio-emotional approach to couple therapy: Linking social context and couple interaction.
Family Process, 49(3), 369-384. doi:
|Aimee Galick, is a doctoral candidate at Loma Linda
University.She identifies as a Feminist Medical Family Therapist. Her
main interest is in how the larger social context affects the
intersection of health and families. Most of her
research has centered on how contextual influences such as gender and
culture affect intimate relationships, the process of therapy, and
experiences with illness.She is passionate about relationships
characterized by mutual attunement, mutual influence, shared
relational responsibility, and shared vulnerability. She administrates a
blog (equalcouples.com) on the topic of mutuality in intimate relationships.|
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Posted By Annie Bao,
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
| Comments (0)
Starting as a
therapist in collaborative healthcare without any formal education or training
in medical family therapy is like going on a blind date, which in
actuality is your first date ever. This is along the same lines of where my
journey began. From what I had heard of the potential for a tremendous
(working) relationship to develop, it appeared to be a good path for me to pave
as a clinician trying to carve out a rewarding career. My third-party knowledge
of the system I was about to meet sounded like the ideal match in core beliefs
and attitudes about how to support patients in their healthcare. I hesitated
about my decision to walk into this situation with little knowledge about the
process, but I was hopeful that there would be longevity in this adventure with
something so innovative.
seeming incompetent coursed through my system and excitement about how this may
impact my future was an electrifying sensation. When I began training as a
marriage and family therapist, most of my perceptions of its practice were
derived from media portrayals (e.g., Frasier, Sopranos, & What About Bob?).
When I was chosen to be a fellow in collaborative healthcare, I again relied on
entertainment depictions (and published research, of course) to guide me
through a general understanding of the environment I was about to immerse
myself in. So armed with the encouragement of family, friends, and mentors
along with my Grey’s Anatomy framework, I…was…ready.
healthcare was the perfect marriage for the pursuit of my aspirations||Something about collaborative healthcare has always intrigued me. Was it that I was the daughter of a physician, who spent my formative years with him, his partner, nurses, and CMAs at their practice? Was it that I myself had ambitions to be a physician that would help alleviate pains of ailing patients like my father could with such humility and grace? Was it my volunteer work at the hospital or with the underserved communities, limited from access to decent healthcare? Or was it having negative encounters with healthcare systems during the care of my loved-ones? Who can say, I’m certain that it is a combination of all of those factors and more. But, I know that passion for medicine and therapy live deep within me and collaborative healthcare was the perfect marriage for the pursuit of my aspirations. |
prior experience or training in collaborative healthcare settings, I was the
least likely candidate to be chosen for a position to work in the field. So, I was
admittedly apprehensive and doubted that I was capable of taking on the role as
a fellow at the Chicago Center for Family Health (CCFH). As an outsider, I was
stricken with feeling like a misfit who simply would not be accepted by this
hierarchical medical system. Fortunately, my director and the other supervisors
at CCFH were willing to take a chance on an eager, naïve, and very green
collaborative healthcare consultant hopeful. They were the gatekeepers that I
needed to grant me access into this specialty and the most unexpected champions
of my abilities for the duration of my time with them. It was not lost on me
that I had accepted a position with the well-respected, John Rolland, so I
resolved to counter my insecurities with positivity and soak up all that I
could from the experience.
collection of practical study of collaborative healthcare, frank process of my challenges,
authentic feedback of my development, and enduring support of everyone
affiliated with my fellowship have culminated into a notably defining time in
my growth as a new medical family therapist. My unconventional introduction
into this work was not a planned career goal, but some of what I learned about
myself in the context of healthcare may seem typical. From my brief immersion,
I developed the following way of being in fulfilling my objective to being an
effective member of a collaborative healthcare team. ||All developing relationships
that are worthwhile take time and commitment|
presents a platform that you can establish genuine connections with those you
will be working with. This will ultimately benefit the patients that you all
want to help.
confident in your expertise: Many times providers do not know what you have
to contribute to the healthcare of their patients until you show that you have
something to contribute to the healthcare of their patients.
humble in what you have to contribute: While you are educated in the psychosocial
elements of an individual and their systems, physicians and nurses are educated
in the biological aspects all the same. Ego has no place in patient healthcare.
collaborative: It is important for physicians and nurses to be transparent with
you about their end of the providing healthcare, but you must also make an
effort to communicate your interaction with the patients and their families.
individually, act collaboratively, and think systemically.
developing relationships that are worthwhile take time and commitment from all
involved to work together. I needed time to define and settle into my role as a
fellow. My supervisors needed time to become acclimated to my personality
(quirky, blunt, & vulnerable) and train someone unacquainted with
collaborative healthcare, with a tendency to ask the most basic of questions. And,
the residents and faculty needed time to visualize and integrate me into their
system in a mutually beneficial manner. Eventually, I found myself busy in our
newborn clinic (I learned how to use a transcutaneous bilirubin tool),
conducting family sessions with multiple healthcare providers in attendance,
and working extensively with physicians as a consultant to the psychosocial
aspects of their patients’ health.
hindsight, this fellowship experience was colored with the most diverse of
personalities and perspectives. The accomplishments of my work with patients was
not mine alone, but was the direct result of intentional collaborative efforts by
all of those I encountered throughout my time at CCFH. One of the most
important lessons I learned was that integration of opposing views is actually
a crucial factor to the success of our care of patients; after all, opposites
oftentimes attract to make for meaningful relationships.
Bao is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a MFT doctoral candidate at
Virginia Tech. As a fellow at the Chicago Center for Family Health, she gained experience
as a healthcare consultant and therapist at the UIC Family Medicine Residency.
She currently supervises MFT graduate students at The Family Institute at
Northwestern and works in the Northwestern University and Advocate Illinois
Masonic healthcare systems. |
medical family therapy
Posted By Tai Mendenhall,
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
| Comments (1)
Providers across the fields of mental health (e.g., Psychology, Medical Family Therapy, Pastoral Counseling, Social work) and biomedical care (e.g., Internal Medicine, Family Practice, Pediatrics) have been increasing their efforts to collaborate with each other since the early 1990s. This movement is, in large part, a natural response to our ever-increasing knowledge about how patients’ respective "parts” – like their minds and their bodies – are more connected than our respective disciplines’ training programs originally prepared us for. As more than 70% of patients attending primary care visits, for example, do so with some kind of psychosocial comorbidity, it is easy to understand how satisfaction with care experiences correlate with the collaborative nature(s) of the services that we provide (Linderman, Koff, Freitag, Min, & Vandivier, 2011; Miller, Kessler, Peek, & Kallenberg, 2010).
This natural (albeit slow) development in our field(s) has evolved in synchrony with our increasing understanding of the strong and reciprocal influences between family functioning (e.g., communication, adaptability, relationship satisfaction) and health (e.g., metabolic control, immune functioning). Indeed, empirical evidence has shown us time-and-again how purposeful attention to families within medical and/or psychotherapeutic interventions can lead to targeted improvements in identified patients’ physiological well-being (e.g., blood pressure, cardiovascular functioning) (Campbell & Patterson, 1995; Tyndall, 2010; Whitney, Murphy, & Landau et al., 2011).
Our efforts to extend collaboration to actively include patients’ families in the care we provide, however, are way out in front of our efforts to evaluate the processes in which families help (or hurt) clinical outcomes. Also lagging are our efforts to understand the impact(s) that our collaborative and integrated care has on families, themselves. While calls to advance empirical support for the work that we do have been made across both local and national/international stages (e.g., Hodgson, Lamson, Mendenhall, & Crane, 2012; Mendenhall, Pratt, Phelps, & Baird, 2012), most research to-date has framed treatment outcomes within individually-oriented frames of dependent variables that are unique to identified patients, alone. A recent review of more than one hundred integrated care studies confirmed this, wherein only a single investigation was recognized for its consideration of family outcomes (Martin, 2012).
Integrating Family- and Relationship- Measures into Healthcare Research
As we work to include patients’ families in the care that we provide, we must also include families in the research that we conduct. In accord with extant literature regarding measures with well-established reliability and validity, the following are instruments that we could begin to integrate into our evaluations of collaborative and integrated care. (Note: In the interests of readability and limited-space, I have not included individual references or studies for each measure described. Literature is robust and easily-found for all instruments identified herein. For more detailed summaries, see Alderfer, Fiese, & Gold et al. (2007) and Walsh (2011)).
Dyadic Relationship Functioning.Our patients’ relationships and social systems are arguably built upon units of two, and it is thereby important to consider ways to assess functioning within the specific unions they maintain. Leading measures evaluating marital and/or romantic-partner relationships include theDyadic Adjustment Scale, the Marital Satisfaction Inventory-Revised, and the Lock-Wallace Marital Adjustment Scale. Collectively these instruments are well-established in their ability to differentiate distressed from non-distressed couples. While paralleling many of the foci evaluated by the aforementioned measures of general family functioning, these tools also tap important dyadic processes related to interpersonal accord and consensus.
Measures with established reliability and validity that evaluate dyadic functioning between parents and children include the Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment, the Issues Checklist, and the Revised Children’s Report of Parental Behavior Inventory. Key content assessed for by these instruments includes parental acceptance, control and discipline, child attachment, interpersonal trust, communication, alienation, constraining (vs. enabling) interactions, and child discourse changes in reaction to parental responses (i.e., progression vs. regression).
Measures directed toward sibling relationships are still in their infancy, as only one is currently available that for which a compelling empirical base has been developed. The Sibling Relationship Questionnairecaptures interpersonal rivalry, conflict, relative power and status, and warmth/closeness.
Family Relationship Functioning. The most robust group of relational measures in family studies assess for general family functioning. Leading observational instruments (which also encompass clinician-rated interviews) include the Beavers Interactional Scales, the McMaster Clinical Rating Scale, the Iowa Family Interaction Rating Scales, the Circumplex Clinician Rating Scale, and the Mealtime Interaction Coding System. Collectively these measures assess for family phenomena like interpersonal communication, affective responsiveness, problem-solving and adaptability to stress or change, conflict styles and conflict-resolution sequences, organization, and cohesion/relational-closeness. Self-report measures (informed by many of the same guiding family theories) include the Family Assessment Device, the Family Relationship Index of the Family Environment Scale, and the Family Assessment Measure-III. Most researchers advocate the employment of both types of measures (i.e., observational and self-report), insofar as combining and triangulating outsider- and (multiple) insider- perspectives affords a more comprehensive picture of what is going on in families, alongside more confidence in findings ultimately arrived upon.
Relational Functioning vis-à-vis Chronic Illness. Alongside the dyadic- and family- measures outlined above, researchers are beginning to advance relational measures specifically designed to target family functioning within systems living with chronic illness. For example, the Impact on Family Scale, Pediatric Inventory for Parents, and Parents of Children with Disability Inventorycollectively measure family members’ sense of mastery/coping, financial and/or legal burdens, family- and social- relationship satisfaction, personal/emotional stress, respective family members’ roles, and communication sequences with identified patients’ medical teams. The Psychological Adjustment to Illness Scale, while administered to individual patients, includes focused attention to satisfaction with domestic life, sexual relationships, extended family relationships, and social environment(s) and support. Overlapping into arenas of coping per se, the Family Narrative Consortium Coding Scheme, Family Coping Coding System, and the Coping Health Inventory for Parents have all established strong reliability and validity. They assess content areas that include family members’ interpersonal cooperation and coping, social support and psychological stability, and understanding the healthcare system with which they are interacting.
Concluding Thoughts and Next Steps
As we advance research regarding integrated care across clinical, operational, and financial arenas – and as we do this using qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods designs – we must remember to include patients’ families within our efforts. Assessing dyadic and/or family functioning alongside dependent variables denoting "success” that are specific to identified patients will better inform how to engage the people that are most important in our patients’ lives to support the very benchmarks that we seek. Conversely, it is important to understand how integrated care that includes family members impacts the family members. Not attending to their needs along the way could translate into a variety of other problems down-the-road if and/or as patients’ support systems erode or fall apart.
The good news here is that we do not have to invent a new wheel. The field of family studies (and within it, Marriage and Family Therapy and – more recently – Medical Family Therapy) has been evolving alongside the field of Collaborative Family Health Care (and within it, Integrated Primary Care and – more recently – the Healthcare Home movement). Established family- and dyadic- measures are already in place, and efforts to integrate these into understanding the intersections of relationships and health have been going on now for quite some time. As we mobilize this natural evolution to bridge advancements in healthcare (i.e., intervening – not just understanding) to tools and instruments in family studies like those outlined herein, we will create new knowledge that further informs the systemically-sensitive and innovative practices that drive us.
Alderfer, M., Fiese, B., Gold, J., Cutuli, J., Holmbeck, G., Goldbeck, L., ... & Patterson, J. (2008). Evidence-based assessment in pediatric psychology: Family measures. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 33, 1046-1061. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsm083
Campbell, T., & Patterson, J. (1995). The effectiveness of family interventions in the treatment of physical illness. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 21, 545-583. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-0606.2003.tb01204.x
Hodgson, J., Lamson, A., Mendenhall, T., & Crane, R. (2012). Medical Family Therapy: Opportunity for workforce development in healthcare. Contemporary Family Therapy, 34, 143-146. doi: 10.1007/s10591-012-9199-1
Linderman, D., Koff, P., Freitag, T., Min, S., & Vandivier, R. (2011). Effect of integrated care on advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in high-mortality rural areas. Archives of Internal Medicine, 171, 2059-2061. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.576
Martin, M. (2012). Integrated primary care: A systematic review of study design and program characteristics.Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC.
Mendenhall, T., Pratt, K., Phelps, K., & Baird, M. (2012). Advancing medical family therapy through research: A consideration of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods designs. Contemporary Family Therapy, 34, 187-203. doi: 10.1007/s10591-012-9186-6
Miller, B., Kessler, R., Peek, C., & Kallenberg, G. (2010). Establishing the research agenda for collaborative care. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Retrieved from: http://www.ahrq.gov/research/collaborativecare/collab1.htm
Tyndall, L. (2010). Medical family therapy: Conceptual clarification and consensus of an emerging profession. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC.
Walsh, F. (Ed.). (2011). Normal family processes: Growing diversity and complexity. Guilford Press.
Whitney, J., Murphy, T., Landau, S., Gavan, K., Todd, G., Whitaker, W., & Treasure, J. (2011). A practical comparison of two types of family intervention: An exploratory RCT of family day workshops and individual family work as a supplement to inpatient care for adults with anorexia nervosa. European Eating Disorders Review, 20, 142-150. doi: 10.1002/erv.1076
|Tai Mendenhall is an Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota (UMN) in the Department of Family Social Science, the Associate Director of the UMN’s Citizen Professional Center, and the co-Director of mental health teams within the UMN’s Academic Health Center / Office of Emergency Response’s Medical Reserve Corps (MRC). He is the co-Coordinator of Behavioral Medicine education at the UMN / St. John's Family Medicine Residency Program (in which he teaches and supervises doctoral MedFT interns and family practice residents), and holds an adjunct faculty position in the UMN's Department of Family Medicine & Community Health. Dr. Mendenhall’s principal investigative interests center on the use and application of community-based participatory research (CBPR) methods targeting chronic illnesses in minority- and under-served patient and family populations.|
medical family therapy