Mental Health Program

MH Beacon

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An image of the Beacon Strategy logo

Workers in a Mental Health Beacon project meeting

Introducing the Mental Health Beacon Project

The Mental Health Beacon was launched in June 2011 by inviting expressions of interest from Victorian adult clinical and community managed mental health services to improve their responsiveness to families. Ultimately, eight services across six different sites were selected to implement one of three evidence-based family interventions – 'Behavioural Family Therapy' (BFT), 'Multiple Family Group' (MFG) and a parenting intervention, 'Let’s Talk' – as part of this two year initiative. At four of the sites, project partners introduced 'Single Session Family Consultation' (SSFC), a brief practice model designed to engage families as a precursor to the BFT and MFG interventions.

Key features of the implementation strategy

  • Evidence-based interventions were selected to be introduced across the six sites. Implementation of ' Let’s Talk' commenced immediately at two of the sites, while a staged process was used elsewhere. This involved implementing SSFC first to promote family engagement and then introducing BFT or MFG after the former practice was established.
  • Three motivated and committed practitioners were identified for each site to drive and support the adoption of the new practices within their services. This involved promoting the new practices, helping to make necessary organisational changes and co-working with their colleagues. These 'champions' also contributed to the training of their team members conducted by their allocated Family Practice Consultant.
  • A dedicated Family Practice Consultant from The Bouverie Centre was assigned to work closely with services at each site. They provided regular supervision to the project champions and worked with the services to develop implementation plans.
  • A management sponsor was identified at each site to ensure that the project was endorsed and supported within the organisation.
  • At intervals through the project, booster sessions were conducted at each site to provide further training and recognition of progress achieved. These booster sessions were paralleled by booster sessions for project champions and management sponsors across sites to promote an exchange of learning and ideas.
  • Following the implementation of SSFC at four of the sites, groups of practitioners (3-5) from each site were then trained in MFG (two-day program) or BFT (five-day program) and provided with ongoing supervision.
  • The project involved an evaluation and research strategy which aimed to both monitor progress in terms of uptake of the new practices and also address the wider research question of how to best implement the chosen family based approaches within mental health care.

Progress to date


Sites were selected on the basis of being best placed to implement the nominated family intervention as well as achieving a balance of representation of community managed/clinical and metropolitan and rural services. The family based approaches adopted at each site are listed below.


  • Jigsaw Young Person’s Mental Health and Drug & Alcohol Service, Barwon Health 
  • St Lukes Anglicare & Mind, Bendigo


  • Peninsula Health Mental Health Service
  • Mid-West Area Mental Health Service

Let’s Talk

  • Northern Area Mental Health Service & NEAMI
  • Eastern Health Adult Mental Health Service

There was a high level of participation by partner services in project activities indicating a productive working relationship between these services and The Bouverie Centre. Nineteen practice champions were engaged from participating sites. They received training in the chosen practice models, namely SSFW (n=13) or 'Let's Talk' (n=6), and were given a brief introduction to implementation theory. Over the course of the project though, a further 147 mental health practitioners participated in SSFC or 'Let's Talk' training. Sixteen practitioners went on to receive training in the specialist modalities of BFT and MFG. A total of 60 supervision sessions and 52 implementation meetings were conducted to support the implementation activities conducted across the six sites.


Between October 2011 and September 2012, 160 SSFC sessions were conducted with families across the four sites introducing this intervention. Interestingly at two sites where invitations to participate in SSFC were recorded, the rate of uptake by families relative to invitations was 52% and 32%. These figures are encouraging when compared to the rate of uptake by families in a similar US study. 'Let’s Talk' was provided to 19 families across the two sites that introduced this intervention. The rate of uptake of 'Let’s Talk' needs to be viewed in the context of a number of factors including the size of the eligible target group (~20% of the adult client population are parents), the sensitivity of the issue for clients and the fact that this intervention was accompanied by significant additional requirements related to research.

Following training two MFG’s have commenced and BFT sessions have been conducted across the four sites involved in these interventions.

Organisational changes

  • A general increase in the overall level of contact with families
  • Family related issues featuring more prominently in intake, clinical review and case planning forums
  • Linkage of SSFC and 'Let’s Talk' with other family related activities
  • Changes to team processes that included:
    • offering family consultations at point of client entry
    • the creation of systems for collecting data in relation to uptake of SSFC and 'Let's Talk'
    • development of promotional material for the interventions that included local branding of the intervention. For example, the Bendigo site renamed their family consultations as ‘Get Togethers’ to make it more attractive to clients and families
    • inclusion of SSFC and 'Let’s Talk' information in staff induction processes
    • routine consideration of family consultation and 'Let’s Talk' in clinical review and intake meetings
    • incorporation of the processes for use of the interventions in clinical documentation


The impact of 'Let’s Talk' on parents receiving the intervention was researched and the data generated is currently being analysed.  Research conducted as part of Mental Health Beacon played an important in a successful submission for large scale funding to conduct further research in relation to the Mental Illness Research Fund (MIRF).

De-identified data about families’ experience of SSFC is being collated and should offer much needed information about families’ experience of this intervention.

Research has also been conducted in relation to practitioners’ experience of using the SSFC model both by The Bouverie Centre and in two small scale qualitative studies conducted by a social work and a psychology student as part of their Masters course. The findings of the studies were presented at TheMHS in August 2013.


Vikki Reynolds presents Justice-Doing, Collective Ethics and The “Zone of Fabulousness”

The Bouverie Centre is delighted to be hosting an interactive workshop by Vikki Reynolds on how we can be of use in community work that happens in contexts of social injustices.

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Family Violence and Mental Health Services

The Bouverie Centre presented a webinar describing the centre’s work exploring the intersection between Family Violence and Mental Health.

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