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There has been little movement in the development of well-established couple and family interventions (in context of health) over the past 10 years, according to a 2021 article published by the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. Although several interventions are approaching the level of being well-established, most have limited empirical support.
Lamson et al. intensely reviewed 87 studies looking for well-established interventions for families facing any of the leading causes of mortality in the United States (heart disease, cancer, accidents, stroke, etc.). They found 12 promising interventions for pediatric and adult weight management, the former demonstrating the most evidence.
The enduring relevance of family systems continues as the prevalence and complexity of informal caregiving grows across as the US and as more research reveals the role of social connections in health promotion and recovery. However, clinical effectiveness research may not be keeping up with societal demands.
The clinical and training implications of this large strategic review are clear, according to Lamson et al. First, clinicians can actively recognize and support couples or families as they deliver patient care, using evidence-based interventions. Clinicians who work in mental health settings can expand their scope of work to include health behaviors that contribute to medical conditions (e.g., obesity, diabetes).
Second, supervisors and training programs can expand their curricula to include education and skill development for interdisciplinary, collaborative care. Workforce development is an essential resource for preparing healthcare workers who are ready for practicing integrated, systems-based healthcare. Training programs should include couple and family interventions in the context of health conditions as required learning.
This new review by Lamson et al. provides key ideas for accelerating the field of family healthcare. As healthcare systems slowly adopt models of value-based, integrated healthcare delivery, researchers and educators can become more involved in the development and dissemination of effective family-oriented interventions.
Lamson, A. L., Hodgson, J. L., Pratt, K. J., Mendenhall, T. J., Wong, A. G., Sesemann, E. M., Brown, B. J., Taylor, E. S., Williams-Reade, J. M., Blocker, D. J., Harsh Caspari, J., Zubatsky, M. and Martin, M. P. (2021). Couple and family interventions for high mortality health conditions: A strategic review (2010–2019). J Marital Fam Ther, 00, 1- 39. doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/jmft.12564