Monday, July 19, 2010

Family Dynamics

So last week I received a referral from one of the hospital social workers for a new client. I called the social worker, because sometimes the client is still in the hospital, and we can meet them there. It tends to really increase our chances of a successful follow up.

This client had already been discharged, but the social worker gave me some additional background and his impressions of the client (patient in his case, I guess). He tells me that this client was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia. He’s a truck driver, lives alone, his family is all in the US, but they are very supportive.
His father is a psychiatrist. His sister is a doctor. The other sister is a social worker. His brother is a development worker.

And I can’t help but wonder how the onset of a serious mental illness would play out in the family dynamics. Is it more frustrating than usual for the family to feel like they can’t help him? More importantly, how will this affect the client? Will he feel that understanding and support from his family, or perhaps like a failure and an outcast?

I know that it is not unusual for families to be challenged or seriously disrupted by something like schizophrenia. Feelings of failure and disappointment crop up on both sides of the equation.

I know that most of us have someone in our network of friends/family/acquaintances who has a mental illness. I have people close to me who live with/have survived eating disorders, alcoholism, SAD and more.

This case just struck me as particularly potent.

1 comment:

  1. Is it more frustrating than usual for the family to feel like they can’t help him?

    Yeah, I would think so. And maybe the understand but maybe they don't understand that closer personal relationships preclude some kinds of help. Hell, I still have friends, and they're people who have been in therapy and kind of should know better, who either say or might as well say "so what do you think about [my complicated situation] as a therapist?" Not how it works!