Families and Chronic Illness

Module Sections:

Using Strategies and Techniques


The following strategies and techniques provide examples of ways to help families affected by chronic illness using the two models described in this module.


  • Solicit the “illness story” from the family (McDaniel, Hepworth, Doherty, 1992)
    • Ask the family to tell you about when and how they found out the family member had a chronic illness or disability
    • Ask the family to describe how they reacted during this time
    • This period of time represents the “crisis phase”of illness (Rolland, 1994)


  • Set reasonable therapeutic goals with the family that are informed by the integrated model as presented in this module. Therapeutic goals should help the family recognize how the illness and their family interface and respond in correlation to one another.
    • Short-term goals help the family deal with overwhelming emotions, reactions, and behaviors that are likely to be experienced in the “crisis” phase of the illness. The crisis phase is around the time the family member was diagnosed with a chronic illness or disability (e.g., stressor(s)/strain(s))
    • Long-term goals help the family to live and cope with the “chronic” phase of illness and its demands. This includes coping with living with the illness or condition day in and day out (e.g., stressor(s)/strain(s))

They should also incorporate aspects of the Double ABCX Model.