Family support


Category: Allied Health Options

What is it?

Family support is a term used to encompass the relationship between the individual with PTSD and their family. The family can either positively or negatively impact on PTSD symptoms and many experts believe that the support provided by family can be an important part of PTSD recovery. This support may include empathetic listening, providing emotional support through difficult times and providing more practical assistance. It is not uncommon for individuals with PTSD to report problems with family relationships. Professional assistance to improve this may have benefits for both the family and the PTSD sufferer.

How does it work?

Witnessing the effects of PTSD on a loved one can be distressing for family members. They may feel a range of emotions about the PTSD including fear, sadness, guilt, confusion or even anger. This can in turn negatively impact on family relationships. These problems may be assisted by helping family members to understand the causes, symptoms, triggers and treatments for PTSD. Talking together about PTSD may help both the individual and their family to cope. Professional assistance to improve family support may include the use of psychoeducation, family therapy or even involving family members more directly in the PTSD treatment program.

Is it effective?

No studies could be found on this topic. Research is needed to determine the effectiveness of family support for PTSD.

Are there any disadvantages?

The involvement of family members may be inappropriate in certain circumstances (e.g. if they have been the perpetrators of trauma).

Where do you get it?

Professional assistance to improve family supports should be provided by specifically trained, registered health practitioners. While these strategies are pursued, it is also important that the person with PTSD is under the care of a certified health professional.

What are the evidence limitations?

There is currently no explicit evidence to support family support as an independent intervention for PTSD. Much of the evidence base is derived from lower levels of evidence such as expert opinion and clinical experiences. Therefore interpreting this evidence should be undertaken with caution


Based on the current lack of high quality evidence, family support cannot be recommended as a first-line, stand alone intervention for clients with PTSD. It may be considered as an adjunct to other PTSD interventions, such as psychological and drug therapies.

Key References

Penk, W & Flannery, RB 2008, ‘Psychological Rehabilitation’, in Effective Treatments for PTSD, 2nd edn, ed. E Foa, T Keane & M Freidman, Guilford Press, New York, USA

PTSD and Your Family, CIGNA website, viewed 8 December 2008,

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