TheMHS 2014 S027: Families, Women

By August 27, 2014 No Comments

You can read the abstracts for this session here.

This topic was covered by a total of three presentations outlined below:


1. Women’s PARC: Reflections on research, establishment and evaluation of gender specific mental health services

Alys Boase 

Alys outlined the benefits of women’s PARC, a women’s specific sub-acute community based intensive residential service. The facility is aimed to provide services to approximately 400 women a year, creating a safe and gender sensitive environment.

Comparing their experiences with staying at a mixed gender service, women at PARC reported feeling safer, with a lower degree of anxiety. This was linked with an increased ability to engage in the therapeutic program and group work, as well as being able to explore more gender specific issues.

Another benefit of PARC that Alys outlined was the dramatic increase in the number of children visiting the facility, shown to have a positive impact on recovery. In response, PARC is now moving to accepting mothers and their babies to stay at the facility in collaboration with the Monash Health Perinatal Unit.

2. In Sickness and in Health: When mental illness complicates a marriage

Juliana Hussain & Sonja Herren – Arafmi

The aim of Juliana and Sonja’s presentation was to provide their experiences of what they have seen when working with couples who are living with a mental health issue.

Couples who receive therapy at Arafmi often present with a high level of both individual and relationship distress, and tend to have been living with mental health issues over an extended period of time. Psychoeducation is often important in the early stages, introducing concepts of mental health, communication techniques, fair fighting, and recovery.

Arafmi highly values the importance of creating and maintaining a balanced therapeutic alliance. This can then translate into topics in terms of Loss, grief, and trauma. It is important to keep in mind that loss within couples therapy is often an ambiguous loss, such as the loss of hopes, dreams, or where a partner is still physically present, but psychologically absent; this concept is important to bring into therapy.

The likelihood of trauma also needs to be kept in mind by therapists working with couples, and that trauma might have also occurred in the process of seeking help.

3. Families sharing with families – workshops when a parent experiences a mental illness

Carol Clark & Sonam Pelden – Curtin University school of social work, RUAH

Carol and Sonam presented their findings on a study conducted after a series of workshops held for families impacted by mental illness.

Workshops included whole family activities, where both parents and children were given space to talk. Activities were child appropriate, fun, and aimed at increasing the resilience of children and families, and empowering families to take on an active role in addressing the impact of mental illness.

Qualitative findings of the workshops included improvements in both parent’s and children’s family relationships, understanding, and coping strategies.

In summary, important messages learnt from the research and workshops included the benefits of creating workshops that are:

  • Strengths based
  • Family centered-  involving whole family
  • Constructing a positive family story
  • Empowering families to know that they have what it takes, and know what they need when given a safe space to reflect together