Not 'Just a Talking Head': Experiences of Australian Public Mental Health Clinicians Implementing a Dialogical Family Therapy Approach for Young People with Severe Mental Health Concerns
2020 Australian Association of Family Therapy The evidence for efficacy of family-based approaches for psychological problems is extensive, although model-specific effects have not been established. However, implementation of family therapy approaches in tertiary mental health settings has been challenging due to factors such as negative staff attitudes and difficulties engaging families. Open Dialogue is an emerging network-based therapy that has a focus on genuine collaboration, flexibility, authenticity, and openness. This study describes the experiences and perspectives of clinicians, service users and families, following training in Open Dialogue, within a child and adolescent mental health service, and an adolescent inpatient unit in public mental health services. A total of 16 participants (11 clinicians and five service users and family members) took part in semi-structured interviews regarding their experiences with Open Dialogue. Interpretative phenomenological analysis was used to analyse interview transcripts. Four major themes were identified from interviews with clinicians: valuing responses from families, learning from families and privileging their expertise, hesitation about doing family therapy, and engaging with authenticity and flexibility. Three themes emerged from family interviews: hesitation about doing family therapy, valuing collaboration and openness, and opening space for more talk. These themes are relevant to challenges of family therapy in public mental health settings and future directions for implementation.