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A family crisis is a situation that upsets the normal functioning of the family and requires a new set of responses to the stressor.

As explained by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services “a family moves into a state of crisis when two or more of the four elements that contribute to a crisis interact. These elements are: 1) experiencing a stress-producing situation, 2) having difficulty coping, 3) showing a chronic inability to meet basic family responsibilities, and 4) having no apparent sources of support. The difference among the interacting elements makes each crisis unique.” Unfortunately, there are a wide variety of crises that can affect families. Here are some examples, provided by Good Therapy of the most common causes of the family crisis:

  • Illness, injury, or death: When serious illness or death occurs in a family, it requires a change in roles and expectations. Other family members must step in and fulfill the sick or deceased individual’s role while also coping with their own grief and/ or anxiety about the situation.
  • Infidelity: An extramarital affair can cause a major shift in the relationship dynamic.
  • Unemployment: Job loss causes financial uncertainty and role changes within the family.
  • Developmental crises: are events that may be planned or predictable but can still cause stress and uncertainty for families and result in a family crisis, such as the following examples: 
    • Marriage
    • Pregnancy
    • Child starting school
    • Teenagers going through puberty
    • Child leaving home
    • Aging parents

Developmental crises usually permanently change a family’s dynamic as they require an adjustment of family routine and structure.

The progression of how a family crisis works its way through a family unit will be distinct to each family. Family therapy experts explain that most family crises occur in the following three stages:

  1. Onset: The beginning of the event and the family’s realization that there is a crisis. Families may be in denial at the onset of a crisis prior to gradually accepting that the situation is happening.
  2. Disorganization: A decline in the family’s functioning, cohesiveness, and shift in the family’s normal roles and routines may occur (e.g., cooking, chores, paying bills, etc. may be forgotten as the family is overwhelmed by stress). Relationships and communication among family members change. 
  3. Recovery: The arrival at a new routine, new family roles, and new expectations. The family starts to imagine a return to normalcy, with an understanding that the family dynamics will be altered and will not be the same as before the crisis.

It is important to note, that although the recovery process can be challenging, working through a family crisis can present an opportunity for positive change. A crisis requires families to discover and strengthen problem-solving skills. During a period of intense crisis, families are often open to learning new problem-solving approaches, as previously relied upon methods of coping fail. When a family proactively works together to effectively resolve a family crisis, the members that make up the family grow, respectively, and the entire family unit heals. 

Further Information and Support

Navigating the challenges that arise from living with mental illness, struggling with substance abuse, and/ or addiction can not only be all-consuming but are often impossible to effectively handle without proper support. If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding mental illness, substance abuse, and/ or addiction we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. Bear in mind that you do not have to be on this journey alone. At {Upwell Advisors}, we offer unique, customized concierge therapeutic services to provide our clients with unparalleled support throughout every step of the recovery process. 

Feel free to reach to contact us anytime via email at sean@upwelladvisors.com. We look forward to supporting you on your journey.

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