The Medical Family Therapist

“Apply yourself to thinking through difficulties—hard times can be softened, tight squeezes widened, and heavy loads made lighter for those who can apply the right pressure.”

Working in a hospital offered me a unique experience as a marriage and family therapist.  My job was to help patients adjust to their “new normal” after being diagnosed with a serious illness or injury.  A new normal might be no longer going to work, being able to walk, or take care of their own personal needs.  By working alongside rehabilitation professionals like physicians, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists, I developed a knowledge base on medical conditions, terminology, and treatments.  This allowed my patients to feel like they could talk about their experiences to someone who understood where they were coming from and what they were going through.  Their safe space was their hospital room, and our conversations about their experiences became a tool for healing.  

Medical Family Therapists like myself address the mental health of patients by first looking at the psychosocial system they are  living in.  Who they are in their family and community is key in understanding what they will need to find meaning in their recovery.  Medical Family Therapists help patients and families find acceptance of what’s happened so they can set goals for a meaningful future.

Here are a few ways a Medical Family Therapist can help:

1. Peer Support.  The most important thing for survivors of a serious illness or injury to know is that they are not alone.  Just as you would go to a specialist for treatment of a serious health condition, it’s a great idea to talk to someone who’s a specialist in coping with that health condition.  Medical Family Therapists connect patients to organizations and peer support volunteers who can take away the notion that, “No one knows how this feels”. 
2. Psychoeducation.  Knowledge is power, and when tackling any new diagnosis, the more we understand, the less anxiety we will experience.  Medical Family Therapists provide up to date clinical resources on diagnoses to take the mystery away from a new illness or injury.  By becoming experts in their diagnosis, patients gain confidence to better cope with it.

3. Family Therapy.  Communication connects hope with healing.  Medical Family Therapists help families talk when the words aren’t easy to find.  A serious illness never affects just one person, it affects the entire family system. Through family therapy sessions, patients can stop feeling like a burden and learn to navigate the changes in their relationships with dignity and confidence.

4. Evidence Based Interventions. Neurofeedback, EMDR, and Mindfulness Meditation are just a few interventions scientifically proven to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.  A medical family therapist will identify the most useful tools and interventions based on the individual needs of the patient. 

Are you in search of a Medical Family Therapist for yourself or a loved one?  If you are located in North Carolina, visit to schedule a session with Jessica Bruno, LMFT.  
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