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Am J Community Psychol. 2008 Sep;42(1-2):154-66. doi: 10.1007/s10464-008-9195-7.

Benefits and changes for family to family graduates.

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Center for Mental Health Services Research, Division of Services Research, Department of Psychiatry, University of Maryland School of Medicine, 737 West Lombard Street, Rm 528, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.


Family members of people with serious mental illnesses (SMI) need information and support to cope with the considerable stresses they experience. The Family to Family Education Program (FtF) is a structured, peer-led, 12-week information and support self-help class for such individuals. Previous research by Dixon et al. (2004) shows reduced subjective burden and increased empowerment among graduates. The present study sought to understand what processes take place during FtF participation that might lead to these benefits, as a first step in building a conceptual model of how FtF causes its effects, using semi-structured interviews with 31 FtF graduates. Qualitative data analysis suggested that new factual and emotional information from FtF shifts interviewees' understanding of their situation and that skills acquired through FtF then allow participants to incorporate these new perspectives into more adaptive behaviors. These changes led to both proximal and distal benefits for the FtF participants interviewed. The results are discussed in the context of self-help, stress-and-coping, and trauma recovery theories.

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