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The Importance of Family as Seen by Mental Health Professionals

The right family environment can help people overcome mental health issues.

According to the Institute for Health Metrics Evaluation, 13% of the global population—about 970 million people—have experienced a mental or substance use disorder.1 Given that statistic, most of us are likely to have a family member who has been or is affected. While mental illness is not something any of us wants to face, there are a lot of ways we can help loved ones dealing with a mental health issue.

One of the most direct ways families can help is to simply be present. That’s because strong social connections, including those with family members, can improve mental health and well-being.2 But there are other, more specific, steps you can take, both in the role you play in your family member’s treatment plan and in the methods in which you provide daily support.

The Importance of Family as Seen by Mental Health Professionals

Partnering With Mental Health Professionals

In a paper published in World Psychology, Margaret Leggatt noted that, in Western cultures, mental health professionals often fail to involve family members in the treatment of patients.3 This habit limits how much families can help, but it doesn’t need to be this way.

If you have a family member who needs mental health counseling and/or psychiatric treatment, you should seek out professionals who are willing to work with you and other family members. According to Leggatt, you should expect a mental health professional to:

  • Coordinate all elements of treatment with you and other family members to ensure everyone has the same expectations and goals.
  • Listen to you and treat you as an equal partner.
  • Assess your and other family member’s strengths and difficulties as they relate to providing support. 
  • Provide important information at the appropriate times.
  • Provide a clear response plan in the event the mental health issue becomes a crisis.
  • Provide training and/or counseling to help you offer proper care and support.  

Providing Effective Support

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, there are a lot of ways you can support a family member dealing with and/or recovering from a mental health issue.4 These include:

  • Learning as much as you can about the specific mental health condition your family member is facing.
  • Demonstrating interest in your family member’s treatment plan and expressing your support.
  • Helping your family member follow their treatment plan.
  • Working with the rest of the family to ensure cooperation and collaboration. 
  • Listening whenever your family member needs to talk.
  • Maintaining regular routines to help create an atmosphere of familiarity and normalcy.
  • Being aware of your family member’s moods and knowing when not to push them too hard.
  • Taking care of your own mental health and finding support, if needed.  

How You Can Help Families Dealing With Mental Health Issues

If you want to help families who have a family member facing a mental health issue, you should consider a career in family counseling. But first, you’ll want to earn the appropriate degree, such as an MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a specialization in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling. By choosing a specialization in your mental health counseling degree program, you can gain experience in diagnosing mental and emotional disorders as well as in resolving marriage and family conflicts related to divorce, mediation, child-rearing, school issues, and family violence.

If you’re concerned you don’t have the time to earn a master’s degree with an emphasis on marriage, couple, and family counseling, online learning can provide a solution. Unlike with campus-based master’s programs, an online master’s program lets you complete your coursework right from home. Plus, an online counseling degree program can give you the flexibility to attend classes at whatever time of day works best for your schedule, affording you the opportunity to work full time while you earn your MS degree.

Many families will have to deal with a mental health issue at some point. Thanks to online education, you can earn the degree you need to help these families overcome the challenges they face.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program with a specialization in Marriage, Couple, and Family Counseling delivered online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,