Family Focused Grief Therapy: A Model of Family-Centered Care during Palliative Care and Bereavement

By David W. Kissane; Sidney Bloch | Go to book overview

3 Conducting family focused
grief therapy

The distress of cancer or any life-threatening illness reverberates through the family. Our model of intervention in response to this is termed family focused grief therapy (FFGT) because the family is the recipient of care and grief is the primary theme of the intervention. The therapy is timelimited, typically comprising six to eight sessions, and its focus is on two major goals: to improve family functioning and promote adaptive grieving. The first objective concentrates on the three major characteristics that determine adaptive functioning: the cohesiveness of the family, their expressiveness of thoughts and feelings and conflict resolution. We call these vital dimensions 'the three Cs' of family relationships: cohesion, communication and conflict. Improvement in any or all of the three Cs leads to an overall gain in the family's functioning. The second objective is intricately interwoven with the first since sharing of grief is dependent upon effective communication. Furthermore, grief that is shared is inevitably eased through the sense of solidarity that counters any prior aloneness.

The focus on family functioning is a positive one, wherever possible, since any hint of criticism would be unwelcome at such a stressful time. The strengths of members are particularly affirmed, so that these are harnessed to empower relevant change. At the same time, we accept the constraints of the treatment by not getting drawn into over-ambitious work with complex families or delving into long-standing personality problems. Importantly, we do not label families as 'pathological' or 'dysfunctional'. The therapist simply indicates that she is interested in working with families to help them assist their sick relative. We state that, in our experience, families do benefit by coming together for meetings in which their concerns are aired.

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