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INFORMATION FOR MENTAL HEALTH PROGRAM LEADERS

What is family psychoeducation?

Family psychoeducation is a method of working in partnership with families to impart current information about the illness and to help them develop coping skills for handling problems posed by mental illness in one member of the family. The goal is that practitioner, consumer, and family work together to support recovery. It respects and incorporates their individual, family, and cultural realities and perspectives. It almost always fosters hope in place of desperation and demoralization.

Psychoeducation can be used in a single family or multi-family group format, depending on the consumers and family’s wishes, as well as empirical indications. Single family and multi- family group versions will have different outcomes over the long term, but there are similar components. The approach has several phases, each with a specific format:

Introductory sessions

Family members meet with a practitioner, together or separately, and begin to form a partnership. These sessions explore warning signs of illness, the familys reactions to symptoms and behaviors, feelings of loss and grief, and goals for the future.

Educational workshop

Families come together in a classroom format for at least four hours to learn the most current information about the psychobiology of the illness. They learn important information about normal reactions, managing stress, safety measures. Families choosing single family psychoeducation may also wish to attend this session.

Problem-solving sessions

Consumers and families meet every two weeks for the first few months in a single or multi- family format while learning to deal with problems in a pragmatic, structured way. The best results occur when the work proceeds for at least nine months. Additional time of up to two years promotes improved outcomes.

Why should mental health program leaders consider family psychoeducation?

Increasingly, mental health facilities are feeling pressure to meet the demands of service and productivity. Mental health program leaders find they need to direct services that will satisfy these demands without sacrificing the quality of care being offered. At the same time, program leaders are concerned about practitioners level of satisfaction.

The American Psychiatric Association and the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research cite family psychoeducation as one of the most effective ways to manage schizophrenia. Research has shown that there is a significant reduction in relapse rates (by at least 50% of previous rates) when family intervention, multi-family groups, and medication are used concurrently. Recent studies show promising results for bipolar disorder, major depression, and other severe mental illnesses.

Family Psychoeducation Toolkit

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