Holding handsThe Finnish ‘Open Dialogue’ model of mental health care has been launched in the UK with the commencement of the first round of a 3-year training programme to develop the approach.

Open Dialogue provides an alternative to traditional methods of working with people diagnosed with conditions such as psychosis. It differs from conventional services in that it includes families and social networks in the treatment process from the very start. It relies less on medication and hospitalisation and more on dialogue and understanding the meaning in people's experiences.  

So effective has the approach been in Western Lapland, Finland, that it now has the best mental health recovery rates in Western Europe for psychosis, according to Seikkula, Alakare & Aaltonen (2011).

"The Open Dialogue approach offers people using mental health services and their families the opportunity to play a more important role in the recovery process, something which increasing numbers have been asking for," said Nick Putman, founder of Open Dialogue UK. "Those engaged in the approach are less likely to be in need of mental health services in the future, have higher rates of employment, and rely less on benefits. This means that the cost-savings in the long-term are likely to be considerable."

Asked why the NHS is taking part in the Open Dialogue training, Isabelle Ekdawi, family therapy lead for the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, said: "With an ageing population and ever tighter finances, the NHS needs to radically rethink mental health services for them to remain viable in the future. There is growing evidence that inclusion of service users' social networks at an early stage in their treatment is both highly valued and beneficial to recovery, as well as helping to prevent future relapses and further use of NHS services (both physical and mental health services).  This training programme will build on the skills of NHS staff to enable them to work in a way that is truly collaborative."

As well as the training, further initiatives are also underway with the Open Dialogue approach being piloted in a number of NHS trusts and a programme of seminars scheduled for June.  

For more information on the Open Dialogue approach please visit the Open Dialogue UK website.


Seikkula J, Alakare B & Aaltonen J (2011) The Comprehensive Open-Dialogue Approach in Western Lapland: II. Long-term stability of acute psychosis outcomes in advanced community care. Psychosis 3(3) 192-204.