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Successful Strategy that Engages Veterans and Families in Psychoeducation to Improve Treatment for Mental Illness


Family psychoeducation is widely considered an evidence-based practice in the treatment of psychotic disorders that results in reduced risk of relapse, remission of residual psychotic symptoms, and enhanced social and family functioning. It also is being increasingly used in treating a variety of other mental illnesses. Recently, VA funded 19 initiatives to implement family psychoeducation, but the implementation of such programs requires engaging mental health clinicians, consumers, and families. This paper discusses the engagement strategies used in the Reaching out to Educate and Assist Caring, Healthy Families (REACH) program, a 9-month family psychoeducation program for Veterans with serious mental illness or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In the REACH program, "family" can include relatives, friends, neighbors, etc. REACH engagement strategies include educating the Veteran's primary mental health care clinician about the program, as well as using motivational interviewing techniques to help Veterans weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the program.

Findings show that REACH has had notable success in engaging Veterans and their families. Of the 1,539 Veterans told about the program from 7/06 through 7/07, 41% had a family member who was willing to meet with a provider to learn more. REACH providers then met with 505 Veterans to explore family participation. Of those, 28% of Veterans with PTSD, 34% of Veterans with affective disorders, and 25% of Veterans with schizophrenia went on to participate in the REACH Program. These rates are comparable to those for programs requiring a much shorter commitment than 9 months, and suggest that the REACH engagement strategy may be a promising tool in recruiting Veterans and their families into family psychoeducation.

PubMed Logo Sherman M, Fischer E, Bowling U, Dixon L, Ridener L, and Harrison D. A new engagement strategy in a VA-based family psychoeducation program. Psychiatric Services February 2009;60(2):254-57.

This study was funded through VA's Office of Mental Health Services. Dr. Fischer is part of HSR&D's Center for Mental Healthcare and Outcomes Research in Little Rock, AR.

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What are HSR&D Publication Briefs?

HSR&D requires notification by HSR&D-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR&D and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR&D based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR&D published articles. Visit the HSR&D citations database for a complete listing of HSR&D articles and presentations.