Helping Families Programme

What is the Helping Families Programme?

“Hope started after I saw little changes start to happen…is this the same child?!” Parent, Southwark.

The Helping Families Programme (HFP) is a specialised parenting intervention designed to help families with complex needs.

Typically delivered by mental health and social care practitioners, the intervention is provided in the community on a 1:1 basis. Over a period of 16-20 weeks, a structured yet highly flexible and individualised approach is adopted. Drawing on principles and methods from the Family Partnership Model, the intervention includes manualised techniques for developing personalised action plans and collaborative relationships with parents.

The intervention draws on evidence that severe emotional and behavioural problems in children are affected by multiple, interacting family risk factors. It also recognises that highly stressed parents can experience standard group-based parenting programmes as overly demanding and inflexible, which may lead to premature dropout from treatment and other poor outcomes.

The Helping Families Programme addresses these practice challenges using community outreach and a range of well-validated cognitive, behavioural and interpersonal strategies that are selected according to the needs of individual families.

The aims are to (i) improve parent-child relationships and interpersonal conflicts, (ii) promote effective coping with daily stress, (iii) implement effective mood regulation strategies, (iv) minimise harm from substance misuse, and (v) build social support.

Helping Families Programme training and practice support is available to Foundation Practitioner and Supervisor levels. The core training programme is:

  • Helping Families Programme clinician/practitioner training.The intervention is supported by manualised practice materials and reflective practice resources.

Who is it for?

The Helping Families Programme is intended for use with parents who are experiencing multiple stressors, who have typically experienced difficulty with other parenting programmes, and whose child/ren are experiencing significant behavioural and/or emotional difficulties.

Originally developed for families with children at risk of being excluded from primary school, it has since been delivered to a wider range of families who are in contact with mental health and social care services.

Where is it being used?

Current sites include a number of London-based Local Authorities and NHS Trusts.

How is it being studied?

A feasibility study has shown good service user acceptability, high rates of programme completion and positive impacts on a range of child and parent outcomes. The intervention is currently being trialled in an adpated form for use with parents affected by personality disorders. This is part of a 3-year research project funded by the National Institute for Health Research (2014-2017).

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