Developing family-sensitive services: How to effect real change in services

Grainne Fadden
Shelagh Musgrave

In this presentation, Gráinne and Shelagh will draw on their extensive experience to provide guidance on how to ensure that families receive services that meet their needs. This in turn contributes to recovery both for service users and for family members.

To achieve this, change is required in traditional mental health services which tend to be individualistic and fail to take account of the importance of social networks in people’s lives. Many staff in services do not have a clear rationale for why they exclude families, and the involvement of families often generates anxiety and fear, for example, in relation to confidentiality conflicts. However, this lack of involvement fails to take into account the key role played by those close to service users in supporting their recovery. In fact, in many serious case reviews following suicides and homicides, there are clear indications that the outcome may have been different if families had been listened to. However, it is challenging to take a balanced view of different perspectives and needs.

Strategies that have been successful in developing more family-inclusive services will be outlined. They will also discuss the benefits of looking after family members’ own mental health needs, with reference to research around recovery for family members. Attitude change can be the most difficult to achieve, but achieving partnership working between professionals, service users and families instills hope and promotes recovery for all of those involved in the care triangle.