Family Domains Project

Social domains are classes of interpersonal process, each with distinct procedural rules underpinning mutual understanding, emotion regulation and action. This study aimed to develop methods for identifying key processes in families that are central to emotional and interpersonal wellbeing. In the longer term the hope is that the Family Domains model will provide vital clues to understanding the family in relation to disorders among young people, such as depression and self-harm and can be applied in a variety of clinical settings.

Project detail

Background

Social domains are classes of interpersonal process, each with distinct procedural rules underpinning mutual understanding, emotion regulation and action. Domain theorists believe a better understanding of these interpersonal processes or social domains could inform treatment of mental health problems.

However, there is a lack of standardised tools for assessing family life that lead directly to treatment of serious mental health problems. This study therefore aimed to develop and evaluate a new method for assessing family functioning in different domains of family life.

A further aim for the study was to identify key processes in families that are central to emotional and interpersonal wellbeing. This will provide vital clues to understanding the family in relation to disorders among young people, such as depression and self-harm.

Methods

We have devised a family interview and a scoring method that directs the clinician to the family’s functioning in different modes, or domains, of family life. It is particularly designed to spot what is going on where a young person’s symptoms become more severe in spite of, and at times as a result of, family members’ best efforts.

In parallel, we have developed a way of describing the general principles of domain functioning to families, so that they can become observers of their own day-to-day interactions. This provides them with a tool to increase understanding, and a platform from which the family can generate alternative ways of responding to difficult emotions and behaviours.

We are also training clinicians to analyse domain processes in their daily clinical encounters with young people and their families, and to build the results of these analyses into treatment planning.

Further work is continuing in the North West led by Professor Hill with an NIHR Research for Patient Benefit grant to test the feasibility of delivering a group based parent training in the Domains framework for parents whose children have been referred to CAMHS.

Publications

Hill, J., Wren, B., Alderton, J., Burck, C., Kennedy, E., Senior, R., Aslam, N. & Broyden, N. (2014). The application of a domains‐based analysis to family processes: implications for assessment and therapy. Journal of Family Therapy, 36(1), 62-80. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-6427.2011.00568.x

Project team

Professor Jonathan Hill

Dr Bernadette Wren

Dr Charlotte Burck

Dr Eilis Kennedy

Dr Rob Senior

Dr Neelo Aslam

Nichealea Broyden