Family-inclusive approaches to reablement in mental health: models, mechanisms and outcomes

Jerry Tew, Gillian Plumridge, Vicky Nicholls, Harriet Clarke

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This Paper reports on a national study of ‘whole family’ models of practice – and how these may (or may not) contribute to the reablement of people with mental health difficulties. Using a capabilities-based perspective, it is argued that, within the context of mental health, reablement may best be defined in terms of empowerment and social participation.

Framed within a realist evaluation methodology, the study employs a comparative case study design to explore the relationships between contexts of intervention, mechanisms of change, and the achievement (or otherwise) of reablement outcomes. Four distinct practice approaches in current use were examined: systemic family therapy, behavioural family therapy, family group conferencing and an integrated systemic/behavioural approach. Using a sample of 22 families, separate interviews were undertaken with service users, family members and practitioners, and narrative accounts were triangulated with scaled responses to scorecard questions.

From an analysis of this data, heuristic models of change are derived for each approach. From this, a composite schema is developed that charts how, with different starting points and routes, engaging with whole families may lead to the construction of a secure and empowering base from which service users may reconnect with wider social worlds.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)864-884
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number3
Early online date25 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017

Bibliographical note

Jerry Tew, Vicky Nicholls, Gill Plumridge, Harriet Clarke, Family-Inclusive Approaches to Reablement in Mental Health: Models, Mechanisms and Outcomes, The British Journal of Social Work, Volume 47, Issue 3, April 2017, Pages 864–884,

© 2019 Oxford University Press


  • Mental health
  • family therapy
  • group conferencing
  • empowerment
  • social participation


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