Medical Family Therapy in the Age of Health Care Reform

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As healthcare reform evolves, the role of psychologists as health service providers evolves, as well. Family psychologists are particularly well suited to working in health settings because a systemic orientation facilitates effective consultation with healthcare teams, patients and family members. They offer critical input and skills because family and relational interventions are key in successful health service provision. Family members influence health behaviors, treatment decisions, treatment adherence, stress levels and adaptation to illness. Further, families are the “front line” care providers. However, family psychologists must develop new competencies in order to make a successful transition to a health care setting, particularly a primary care setting. Assessment, intervention and consultation strategies must be adapted to the unique challenges encountered by families facing illness, and to the healthcare environment itself. This article reviews the adaptations family therapists can make to be successful in primary care. In addition, medical family therapy concepts and techniques useful in work with families facing illness are reviewed. The role of the family psychologist in a primary care setting and medical family therapy interventions are illustrated via case examples.

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