Results of a quasi-experimental design study to promote work with affected family members in a large third sector organisation in England

First published: 10 May 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

Alex Copello

Alex trained in Psychology in London, Clinical Psychology at the University of Surrey and later obtained his PhD from the University of Birmingham. He is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, formerly clinical director of the Birmingham and Solihull NHS Foundation Trust substance misuse services and currently the Director for the Trust Applied Addiction Research and Development Programme and Professor of Addiction Research at The School of Psychology, University of Birmingham.  His career has combined clinical and academic work in the addiction field. His research and clinical interests include the study of the impact of addiction upon families as well as the development and evaluation of family and social network based interventions. Alex has served in two NICE guideline development groups and has been a member of the executive council of the Society for the Study of Addiction and the chair of the New Directions in the Study of Alcohol Group in the UK.  Alex publishes regularly in a number of scientific journals and has co-authored/edited the following books: Living with Drink: Women Who Live with Problem Drinkers (1998); Substance Misuse in Psychosis: Approaches to Treatment and Service Delivery (2002) [Awarded a High Commendation in the 2003 BMA Book competition]; Cognitive Behavioural Integrated Treatment (2004), Coping with Alcohol and Drug Problems (2005) and Social Behaviour and Network Therapy for Alcohol Problems (2009) [Awarded a High Commendation in the 2010 BMA Book competition].

The project described is part of a program of research aimed to promote a whole organisation shift towards greater involvement of affected family members within addiction treatment and services. A two-phase quasi-experimental design integrating action research is described. Two teams within the organisation were selected at random to receive a family-focused training and on-going supervision package whilst two other teams served as a control and received the package following a delay. The package was delivered to all managers and front-line staff within each team. The study evaluated the impact of ‘immediate’ vs. ‘delayed’ training and support upon a range of outcomes using pre and post quantitative and qualitative measures.

Staff who had received immediate training reported significant increases in positive attitudes towards family-focused practice; as well as increases in the proportion of family-focused practice in their daily routine work. Significant improvements in attitudes were, however, also evident in the absence of the training package, during the delayed comparison group’s waiting period. Possible reasons for the findings are presented along with qualitative analyses which illustrated the complex and sometimes hidden experiences and views of staff which helped to aid the interpretation of the statistical findings.

The study supports the use of an organisational platform to successfully implement change towards more family-focused addiction treatment. Overall, the results indicate that addiction services are capable of implementing family-focused practice; however success depends on many organisational factors as well as individual service provider, manager and therapist characteristics.

(The research was funded by the University of Birmingham, Aquarius Action Projects and Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (BSMHFT)).


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Ms Claire Hampson