Open Dialogue is a model of mental health care that was first pioneered in Finland. Their mental health service collapse when it had the worst statistics in Europe for schizophrenia. Now they have the best.
Open Dialogue Treatment involves regular meetings of family networks alongside the patient. The patient, or person at the centre of concern, is not seen as the sick one. But rather the family member who is expressing the effects of a breakdown in relationships. Diagnosis doesn’t involve asking what is wrong with them but what has happened to them.
Mental healthcare staff are trained in family therapy and communication skills that focus on encouraging all the voices of the family network to be heard. This means that within a very short space of time, people open up and tell them things they have never told anybody else. This openness in communication is what allows for healing to take place.
Open Dialogue has already been taken up in a number of countries around the world, including much of the rest of Scandinavia, Germany and several states in the US.
This year’s Peer Supported Open Dialogue Conference showcased families who have been experiencing Open Dialogue in the NHS. It also showed mental health professionals who are feeling more connected to why they originally got into this work: to help people. This video shows some of the highlights from the day.
Results from a non-randomised trials are striking. For example, 72 per cent of those with first episode psychosis treated via an Open Dialogue returned to work or study within two years, despite significantly lower rates of medication and hospitalisation compared to treatment as usual.
Double blind randomised clinical trials are now taking place in UK. Results from this trial, if positive, will affect mental health care provision in the UK as well as around the world.