Developing Family-Sensitive Services and Practice

Dr Gráinne Fadden
Dr Gráinne Fadden, Director, Meriden Family Programme, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust and University of Birmingham

Traditional mental health services were established with a focus on the person with the mental health difficulty. Much of the ideology and practices resulting from this viewpoint are evident in current practice, for example in terms of the treatments and approaches that are offered, polices, guidelines and recording systems. What is interesting is that even when there is an approach with a robust evidence base as is the case with family interventions for those experiencing psychosis and other complex difficulties, the strength of the historical influence outweighs the evidence – evidence is not enough to change systems from current practice which is often influenced by other factors such as attitudes and power positions.

So how do we bring about change in complex systems so that the impact of the change is felt by those using services and their families and friends? Using family interventions for psychosis as an example, this workshop will examine a range of strategies for bringing about change in services so that not only the person with the mental health difficulty, but also those who support them can work towards recovery. These will include strategies in service systems, ways of changing staff attitudes, and how working collaboratively with both service users and those in their social network can bring about real change.


Dr Gráinne Fadden is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist based in Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation NHS Trust, Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham and Director of the Meriden Family Programme.  The Programme has trained over 5400 people to work with families and been awarded joint-winner of the National Institute for Mental Health in England (NIMHE) 2003 Positive Practice Award for ‘Modernising Mental Health Services’, winner of the ‘Social Care Award’ (Midlands and East Region) in 2005 in the Health and Social Care Awards organised by the Department of Health, and winner of the Health Service Journal   national award for Mental Health Innovation in 2008. In November 2009, Dr Fadden was awarded the prestigious Marsh Award which is a lifetime achievement award given by Rethink, the UK national mental health charity, for her outstanding contribution to mental health. 

Dr Fadden has worked in the area of family work throughout her career; in clinical practice, research, training and more recently in relation to influencing organisational change to incorporate family work routinely into mental health services.  She has also written extensively on the effects of mental health problems on families, the ways in which families can be supported, and on the training of mental health professionals to work with families, including books, book chapters and research articles. She has been involved in a number of EU funded research projects evaluating various aspects of the impact of mental health problems on families, and the development of services to families. Current initiatives being developed include family member peer support and recovery for family members.

Dr Fadden links with the Department of Health, NHS England and Health Education England on issues relating to families and carers, and also works closely with a range of national bodies, including the Royal College of Psychiatrists, regarding these issues. Her international reputation has resulted in her delivering training in Europe and as far afield as Canada, Australia and Japan.