Family Therapy Helps Teens With Suicidal Thoughts
Young adults suffering with suicidal thoughts and depression had stronger and faster reduction of their symptoms when treated with attachment-based family therapy than with usual care, according to a new study. Teens with severe suicidal thinking who participated in the family therapy were at least four times more likely to have no suicidal thoughts immediately following and 3 months after treatment.
Family involvement may be one key. “Most treatment models mainly work with the adolescents alone, helping them to learn new coping and problem-solving strategies,” says study leader Guy S. Diamond, Ph.D., director of the Center for Family Intervention Science at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “But adolescents are highly influenced by their parents. Family conflict, chaos, and strife can contribute to youth suicide, while at the same time family love, trust, and communication can buffer against it. This therapy aims to resolve family conflicts and promote family strengths so that the appropriate bond of attachment can protect youth from self-harm. Parents are not viewed as the problem, but as the curative medicine.”
For the study, researchers studied 66 children ages 12 to 17 who visited a primary care doctor or hospital with severe suicidal thinking and depressive symptoms. The next step is to conduct larger studies to clarify which, if any, aspects of the therapy are protective.