Family Dynamics in Mental Health Treatment and the Importance of Family Support

family dynamics and mental health

Family Dynamics in Mental Health Treatment and the Importance of Family Support

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 5 U.S. adults struggle with a mental illness.[1]

While many people have mental illnesses they must recover from, mental health affects everyone. Caring for your mental health is essential, whether you have a mental illness or not. If you are attending therapy or a mental health treatment center for the first time, you might not be aware of how much your family dynamics impact your emotional well-being.

Your family dynamics can directly influence the way you see the world, people around you, and even yourself. If your family dynamics are unhealthy, you will begin to experience negative emotional symptoms, such as anxiety, pessimism, or depression. As a result, it is necessary to understand how family dynamics impact mental health treatment and the importance of having family support.

Understanding Unhealthy Family Dynamics in Mental Health Treatment

“Family dynamics” is a term used to explain relationships with family members, how families communicate, and the ways in which families interact with one another. When you are receiving treatment for mental health, your family dynamics will most likely come up frequently because having unhealthy family dynamics can affect your overall mental health as well as your ability to overcome negative situations or emotions in life.

Common unhealthy family dynamics seen in mental health treatment include:

  • Enmeshment – this is a dynamic in which family members are unhealthily close, causing poor boundaries and codependency
  • Isolation – this occurs when a family makes it difficult for its members to form close emotional relationships with others outside of the family unit
  • Disorganization – this dynamic occurs when there is a fracture in the family, often from divorce or separation, which causes multiple sides of the family to form
  • Rigidity – rigidity as a family dynamic is characterized by inflexibility, strict rules, and stern behavior that leaves little room to learn, grow, and make mistakes without harsh punishment
  • Closed-Off Communication – this occurs when family members are unable to speak honestly with each other without fear of punishment, ridicule, or judgment
  • Role Conflict – role conflict describes a family dynamic where a person’s role is inappropriate for their age. An example could be a child caring for their siblings because their parents work too much.

All of these family dynamics are unhealthy and will cause rifts among family members and mental health issues for an individual. As a result, you will likely address these dynamics during mental health treatment if one fits your experiences.

Common Challenges Caused by Unhealthy Family Dynamics

These dynamics can lead to issues throughout the family and mental health symptoms among each individual. Because of this, mental health treatment is often necessary.

Common challenges caused by unhealthy family dynamics include:

  • Communication issues
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Substance misuse
  • Trouble maintaining intimate relationships
  • Issues expressing emotions effectively
  • Rivalry among siblings
  • Strained relationships with parents
  • Financial issues
  • An inability to set healthy boundaries
  • Role reversal between parent and child
  • Increased likelihood of mental illness

Because of the wide range of issues unhealthy family dynamics can cause, they must be addressed by a mental health professional. Mental health treatment programs are the best solution, as they will offer individual counseling, group therapy with your peers, and family therapy sessions.

What are the Goals for Family Dynamics in Mental Health Treatment?

If you are attending a mental health treatment program that focuses on family dynamics, you will work with your therapist both individually and with your family to improve your relationships. Establishing healthy family dynamics can be immensely helpful for recovery.

Examples of healthy family dynamics include:

  • Mutuality – this is characterized by familial relationships with shared feelings of warmth, belonging, and connection with one another that is not one-sided or codependent
  • Individuality – this family dynamic is characterized by family members feeling comfortable forming their own identities outside of the familial unit
  • Flexibility – this occurs when family members can adapt their thinking or behavior based on the needs of those around them, showing signs of empathy and understanding
  • Clear Communication – the opposite of closed-off communication, where family members can be open and honest with one another about their needs without fear of retaliation

Mental health treatment centers can help you and your family achieve these goals through counseling that provides communication skills, understanding of one another’s needs, and emotional regulation skills for each individual.

Why is Family Support Important During Mental Health Recovery?

Whether you are attending mental health treatment for family issues or not, it is important to have familial support.

According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine (NLM), “Mental health problems have been associated with an assortment of dysfunctional social and psychological processes in one’s family of origin”.[2]

Many negative emotions and mental health symptoms can be linked to dysfunction in the family. By including family members in mental health treatment, you allow them to gain the understanding they need to empathize with you while leading them to seek out their own support at the same time.

Studies have shown that family support can benefit our mental health recovery in a variety of ways, including:[2]

  • Fewer relapses in mental illness or substance misuse
  • Fewer hospitalizations
  • Shorter inpatient stays
  • Improved compliance with medication and treatment plans
  • Reduced severity of depressive episodes
  • Better self-reported quality of life
  • Reduced social impairment

Get Connected to a Family-Focused Mental Health Treatment Program

If you or a loved one struggles with mental health symptoms or a mental illness, it’s time to seek help. Mental health recovery often benefits from the involvement of a client’s family, which is why many treatment programs are beginning to include intensive family therapy in their treatment plans.

At Florida Recovery Group, we understand the importance of family involvement. Contact us today to learn more about our family-focused mental health treatment program.


  1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): About Mental Health, Retrieved January 2024 From
  2. The National Library of Medicine (NLM): Family engagement as part of managing patients with mental illness in primary care, Retrieved January 2024 From