Sissel Johansen & Ira Malmberg-Heimonen

The importance of the network council for mental health

A family group conference is a meeting in which the individual and his or her expanded social network meet to establish a plan addressing questions the individual wants to discuss. The aim of this article is to present main findings from a project, where family group conferences have been implemented among social assistance recipients in Oslo and Bergen. The purpose of the study was to generate complementary insights into how the family group conference functions in this context. A mixed method design was applied. 149 participants were included in an RCT-study and qualitative interviews with 15 informants and observations of 5 family group conferences were performed. The results show positive short-term effects on mental health, explained by improved family relations, a movement from loneliness towards a sense of community, and improved self-worth. Also the appreciative support from the social network was an important interactional process caused by the intervention. Family group conferences may thus have clinical implications for mental health work.