Working with families with physical illness: a systemic approach

Course overview

The care and support of children and adults affected by serious physical illness, disability and treatment regimes falls largely to their families.

Familial relationships are affected by and can affect the development, treatment and prognosis for serious illness. This course is designed to assist professionals in engaging with families and working across the many different professional agencies that may be involved.

The National Service Framework (NSF) commissioning children’s and young people’s palliative care services recommends offering psychological support and therapy to families. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines for long term chronic illness also recommend emotional and psychological support for children, parents and carers.

The course will draw on your own experiences and the experiences of the facilitators in both hospital and community based adult and child health. It will include a variety of teaching methods including seminars, group and experiential work and clinical reflection.

Themes to be explored include:

  • an introduction to the systemic approach
  • the fit between the family, the professional and the health care system
  • cultural perspectives and diversity
  • the meaning of illness for children and adolescents
  • addressing the implications of illness for adults as couples and parents
  • systemic work with pain and other symptoms
  • importance of transgenerational meanings in illness and disability
  • loss and hope in work with illness
  • personal-professional boundaries: the personal implications for professionals and agencies

The aim of the course is to enable professionals to reflect on the psychosocial aspects of their work with illness and disability using a systemic framework, thinking about families as a resource and a context for change. Seminars will offer participants a theoretical understanding of the systemic model and skills needed to apply this when working with the physically ill.

This course invites applications from professionals working with people affected by physical illness. They can be medically trained such as nurses, doctors, occupational therapists. Applications are also welcomed from non-medical professionals including social workers, psychologists, counsellors, teachers and spiritual carers.

A maximum of 20 places are available.

The course tutors, Wendy Smith and Laura Glendinning are both systemic psychotherapists with a core professional training in nursing.

Brilliant training; thoroughly enjoyed it. Presenters very skilled and knowledgeable and offer lots of help and development to integrate skills. (Jul 21)

.... given me confidence to use tools and skills in my work straight away something which other trainings have not enabled.... (Jul 21)

The key take away points could be implemented quickly in client work that same week! (Nov 20)

I found the mix of theory and practice a really good balance and very much appreciated that the activities we did were almost all ones we could also do with our clients. Very good experiential learning. (Jan 22)

I really valued meeting and exchanging ideas with others who were always encouraging and supportive - which helped to open up ideas and possibilities where I couldn't see them. The gentle encouragement to try things out and see, to be tentative and curious, to take risks and to bring these back to the group to discuss - whilst it can often seem scary to try something new or different, I enjoyed how this felt as it was always supported, encouraged, and reinforced. (Jan 22)

This course will be delivered remotely using Zoom. This is very easy and safe to use regardless of your level of IT skill.
You will need a device with a microphone and camera together with a suitably fast internet connection. Although mobile devices and tablets can be used, we recommend the use of laptop or desktop PC for the best experience. Some devices provided by employers may have restrictions in place. Please use this test link ( to check your set up before booking.
Additional resources for this course will be provided using Moodle, our virtual learning environment.
You will be sent joining instructions including all the necessary login links, passwords and guidance on how to use the relevant functionality about a week before the course start date.

Should you have any concerns about the accessibility of remote delivery please contact us at to discuss how we can best help you.

The course will last 30 hours in total.

There will be 5 sessions:

Fridays from 9.30pm to 3.30pm

On the following dates:

  • 13, 20 and 27 January
  • 3 and 10 February 2023


Please click the 'Apply' button on the left of the screen to start your booking.

Payment can be made by card, or by uploading a purchase order if you wish your organisation to be invoiced.

Included in your course fee, you will receive online membership of the Tavistock’s internationally-renowned library for the duration of your course.

Our friendly and knowledgeable library team will help to support you through your specialist CPD course, whatever your level of professional or academic experience. You will have access to an extensive range of eBooks, online journals, all the relevant key databases and our specialist audio-visual collection, plus reference access to all our print books. Our Information Skills Trainer has made lots of material available on Moodle to help you navigate our comprehensive electronic collections. PCs and photocopiers are also available for your use (charges apply for printing and copying).

Library staff curate various online resources, such as Audio/Video Playlists, and regularly share helpful news and research on Twitter and Facebook. Find out more on the Library website:

Certificate of attendance
Theoretical approach:
Admission status:
13 January 2023 09:30 to 10 February 2023 15:30