Treatments & Services

Family Psychoeducation vs. Family-to-Family Education Program (FFEP)

Basic Facts on Family Psychoeducation:

* A clinical approach, with patient outcomes as its primary focus (eg., reduced hospitalization) and family-member well-being as an intermediary or secondary goal.

* Created and led by mental health professionals.

* Usually offered as part of an overall clinical treatment plan for the ill individual (eg., person has to be in treatment for family to take part).

* A group lasts twelve months to three years; groups are usually diagnosis-specific.

* Considered by many to have enough scientific evidence behind it for the primary goals that it is an "evidence based practice."

* Has not been widely available to family members due to dissemination and adoption obstacles on numerous levels.

Basic Facts on the Family-to-Family Education Program (FFEP):

* A self-help and empowerment approach, with family-member outcomes as its primary focus (eg., better understanding, reduced stress) and client well-being an intermediary or secondary goal (eg through better communication or family atmosphere).

* Created and led by family members of people with mental illnesses.

* Classes are held in the community, not mental health system. The ill person does not have to be in any treatment for their family members to take part.

* A class lasts 12 weeks, with options to continue in a NAMI support group.

* Classes are not diagnosis-specific, although specific information is shared. Emphasis on the common issues, needs, concerns of family members.

* Has been the subject of only a small amount of research showing benefits for family-member well being, and receives glowing reviews from graduates.

* Is widely available, and free, in most regions of the U.S. and some parts of Canada and Mexico. Model is self-sustaining in that additional teachers are recruited from class graduates.

A Common Question:

Are these two models in competition with each other?

No, not at all. They are very different in structure, content, and accessibility…and so are quite complementary; not at all redundant. In fact, in an optimal situation, each family would have the choice of participating in either one or both.

FFEP, being peer-led, independent of the mental health system, and time limited (12 weeks) might be more comfortable for some families, especially at first. Psychoeducation, in contrast, may provide more in depth instruction and help focusing on a specific illness and helping the client. Therefore, some might want to take FFEP and then enroll in Psychoeducation afterwards. Unfortunately, most people don’t have this choice since access to family Psychoeducation is sparse and many families do not yet know of FFEP even when it is available in their area. Therefore, each should support knowledge of and availability of the other.

Reviewed by Alicia Lucksted, PhD, August 2003


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