Janet Christie-Seely, MD, CCFP, Family Physician and Professor, Department of Family Medicine, University of Ottawa
Schoel Shuster, MA, MSW, RSW, Social Worker, Lecturer, Department of Family & Community Medicine, University of Toronto
Russell Sawa, MD, PhD, CCFP, Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, University of Calgary
Lindsay Watson, MA, Registered Marriage and Family Therapist, Institute of Family Living, Toronto, Ontario, Lecturer, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto
Working With Families Institute, Department of Family & Community Medicine, University of Toronto
Posted: October 8, 2014 Format: Word document
The Family Meeting: An Opportunity to Provide Family-Oriented Care
Family doctors face many situations where their management plans for their patients would be greatly enhanced by a discussion with the whole family. There may be medical information that the family needs to understand; there may be differences of opinion as to the method of dealing with a situation, or there may be conflict among family members because of the situation. Interviewing a family is not the same as interviewing an individual patient: first the patient has to understand and acknowledge the need for a family meeting, then the family members need to understand why they have been invited. Family members’ concerns and ideas about possible solutions should be taken into account when developing a management plan to assist the patient and family cope with the presenting illness or concern. This module emphasizes the necessary tasks in planning and facilitating a family meeting.
In today’s world, families are under increasing stress, from financial and time constraints, to family breakdown, substance abuse, and threats of violence. Family physicians are seeing an increase in psychosocial issues such as anxiety and stress-related disorders, often co-existing with and complicating medical problems such as diabetes or pneumonia. The psychosocial issues are often more difficult to diagnose and manage than are the medical problems—and all take place in the family context. Very often, the family is the key to dealing effectively with the whole spectrum of complaints, requiring a psychosocial assessment. In the crowded family medicine curriculum, this vital area of knowledge and skill is often ignored in favour of more clear-cut procedural skills.
To educate family physicians about dealing with families, a group of family medicine educators, practitioners and mental health professionals affiliated with the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University Of Toronto founded the Working with Families Institute (WWFI) in 1985. The WWFI has developed various training experiences for trainees and practising physicians.