Counseling Families with Chronic Illness

Edited By: Susan H. McDaniel

Course Description

COUNSELING FAMILIES WITH CHRONIC ILLNESS provides mental health professionals with an understanding of how to collaborate effectively with health care providers to help patients and their families cope with chronic illness. The authors, leaders in the field of medical family therapy, describe the fundamentals of the medical family therapy approach and address counseling issues involved in working with people with AIDS, somatization disorder, and other chronic illnesses.

Special Features

  • Identifies techniques to break down the barriers to collaborative practice with health care providers
  • Offers strategies for helping the patient and family to accept the illness and develop a manageable treatment plan for both
  • Discusses the major ethical issues involved in medical family therapy with the chronically ill
  • Describes how to address physical concerns during the counseling process and how to communicate constructively with patients and families facing illness
  • Presents a medical family therapy model for AIDS patients and their families to enhance overall treatment

About Authors

Susan H. McDaniel, Ph.D., is an associate professor of psychiatry and family medicine and director of the University of Rochester Family Therapy Training Program. She publishes extensively in the areas of family therapy supervision and consultation and family systems medicine and is a frequent speaker at national meetings for both disciplines.

Learning Objectives

  1. Compare medicine and family therapy as coming from divergent schools of thought.
  2. State why psychotherapy has been designated as feminine.
  3. Describe the medical culture of physicians.
  4. List several specialty areas where collaboration may be particularly good.
  5. List the three key guidelines for nurturing a relationship so collaboration can thrive.
  6. Define primary care.
  7. Describe the biopsychosocial approach to health care.
  8. State the first step the family therapist should take to establish collaboration with the medical system.
  9. Describe how a good collaborative relationship can be maintained between a family therapist and physician.
  10. Describe the systems approach.
  11. Describe Engel’s (1977) biopsychosocial model.
  12. List several goals for medical family therapy.
  13. Define agency and communion.
  14. Define acute, chronic, and resolution for the illness stages of AIDS.
  15. Define “innocent victims.”
  16. State why it is preferred to say, “a person with AIDS” instead of “an AIDS patient.”
  17. Describe how communion is enhanced between family and support systems.
  18. List the three purposes of selected rituals.
  19. State when somatic fixation occurs.(Van Eijk et al.,1983)
  20. Describe somatically fixated patients.
  21. List the three theories about the role of language in creating a stable, dependable reality.
  22. State why progress is slow for somatically fixated patients.
  23. Define the client.
  24. Discuss the two theoretical issues that may create ethical dilemmas.
  25. List the risks caused when confidentiality is maintained with all family members as if they were individual clients.
  26. State the role of the psychologist when obtaining informed consent from the chronically ill.
  27. Define paternalism.
  28. State the basic requirement of informed consent.
  29. List three ways neutrality can be accomplished.
  30. Define psychological ease.
  31. Describe social support.
  32. List the three influences of family-of-origin that influence a person’s physical health.

Course Contents


  1. Opening the Door to Collaboration with Physicians
    Rae J. Schilling and David L. Stoller
  2. Collaboration Between Family Therapists and Physicians: An Interview with Thomas L. Campbell, MD
    Susan H. McDaniel


  1. Families with AIDS: The Medical Family Therapy Approach
    Jeri Hepworth, Susan H. McDaniel, and William J. Doherty
  2. Language, Silence, and Somatic Fixation
    David B. Seaburn


  1. Ethical Issues in the Treatment of Families with Chronically Ill Members
    Michael C. Cottlieb
  2. Personal Ease, Physical Disease, and Intergenerational Family Experience
    Donald S. Williamson