Family therapy in child and adolescent mental health
A descriptive summary of effectiveness research and practice perspectives to inform training and workforce development planning in New Zealand
Author by the Werry Centre in September 2009.
This report aims to provide a comprehensive review of effectiveness research and practice perspectives drawn from the family therapy literature, and from interviews with nine selected key informant/stakeholder family therapists practicing in New Zealand. It is anticipated that findings and recommendations drawn from the survey will provide a platform to inform training and workforce development planning for family therapists, and for family therapy, in New Zealand. While the project brief originally focused on descriptions of effective, evidence based family therapy interventions and models utilised both internationally and within New Zealand, this brief proved difficult to achieve for a number of reasons – namely the lack of quality research available which compares and contrasts different models and approaches. In addition the general consensus, both in the literature and from the perspectives of the key informants, is that the service model approach forms only one aspect of best family therapy practice. While systemic family therapy and a handful of specific family therapy models (Multi Systemic Therapy (MST) and Functional Family Therapy (FFT); Multidimensional Family Therapy; Brief Strategic Family Therapy; and the Maudsley Model for children and adolescents with
Eating Disorders), are deemed “evidence based” by this review, recognition of the significant number of influences on effective family‐based intervention means that it may be unwise to endorse any specific model or training programme. As such, it may be more prudent, to recognize that family therapy is undoubtedly effective, and cost effective, in the treatment of families and children/young people presenting to mental health services; acknowledge the unique cultural context in which family therapists working in New Zealand practice; appreciate the significant impact that service design and philosophy has on ensuring that families are able to access and engage with mental health services; and understand the significant challenges faced in making family therapy practice visible in child and adolescent mental health settings in New Zealand.
As a result, this report recommends that family therapists practicing in New Zealand are provided with a number of opportunities to “become more visible” within child and adolescent mental health services. These opportunities could include:
- A symposium for key stakeholders in family therapy to promote collaboration and learning opportunities
- Working with child and adolescent service management to develop role descriptions and career pathways to develop specialist family therapy roles
- Working with tertiary education providers to develop and promote family therapy courses at post graduate level supported by Skills Matter funding
- Development of a national family therapy Association.
- Development of a web‐based national clearinghouse to ensure a centralised and coordinated approach to the dissemination of research, training, and leadership information.
- Promotion of national training programmes in Family Therapy which recognise the unique cultural context in which family therapists working in New Zealand practice, ranging from short orientation courses to comprehensive training courses with a practicum component.