A family approach to better mental health

The best outcomes are achieved when we take a family approach to mental health. Here’s how this whole-person, whole-family approach helps each member of the family thrive.

By Monika Roots, MD

November 14, 2021

Whole-Person, Whole-Family

Has your child ever been to a therapist or psychiatrist? Did they go into the office only to emerge 60 minutes later, and you feel like you don’t have a clue of what happened? You’re hoping for the best for your child, but you also feel a little in the dark. 

Studies are finding that including the entire family in mental health care actually leads to the best outcomes.  Just one person within the family may be feeling and exhibiting signs, but mental health issues actually affect the whole family. If your child, or anyone else in the family, is experiencing issues, you probably can relate.

Focusing on the child or teen’s complete environment, including both home and school, is the best way to improve their symptoms. That’s why at Bend Health we take a whole family, whole person approach to mental health. 

Here’s why a family approach is a good approach: Mental health care focuses on identifying how thoughts, feelings and behaviors are related to interactions with others. For example, a parent may ask about a child if their homework is done. A child may interpret that as “they don’t think I finished my homework,” or “they don’t trust me,” leading to feelings of anxiety or irritability. This may escalate certain behaviors or trigger a desire to just escape. However, that was probably not the intention of the parent’s comment at all — they were simply curious. 

Working with families to learn how to interact with compassion and empowerment as a family, rather than treating an individual in isolation, helps everyone in the family thrive. Being the child or teen’s cheering squad and encouraging family members to evaluate their actions or the actions of others can lead to a stronger family unit. 

The school environment works in a similar way in that working with schools to promote positive communication and ways of supporting a child or teen with mental health concerns helps everyone feel more supported. That’s why a family, or collective, approach to mental health yields the greatest opportunity for feeling better.

A healthy home and family creates parents and siblings who are each other’s biggest fans. Communication and interactions between family members are the best ways to support mental wellness. Involving the family unit to learn how we affect each other and to learn new ways of supporting each other is a key component of child and adolescent mental health.


1. McGinnis, J. M., Stuckhardt, L., Saunders, R., & Smith, M. (Eds.). (2013). Best care at lower cost: the path to continuously learning health care in America. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK207234/

2. Clay, A. M., & Parsh, B. (2016). Patient-and family-centered care: It’s not just for pediatrics anymore. AMA journal of ethics, 18(1), 40-44.

3. Arango, C., Díaz-Caneja, C. M., McGorry, P. D., Rapoport, J., Sommer, I. E., Vorstman, J. A., ... & Carpenter, W. (2018). Preventive strategies for mental health. The Lancet Psychiatry, 5(7), 591-604

4. Pecora, P. J. (Ed.). (2018). Evaluating family-based services. Routledge.

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