Whole Family Approach: rapid review of literature

Reviews the evidence on Whole Family Approaches to family support, focussing on examples of best practice in the context of substance use and implications for the training and learning development of substance use practitioners and wider workforce.

2. Methodology

A rapid review of the published literature on FIP and a WFA in the context of substance use was undertaken. Key terms used in the field of family support and substance use were identified from an initial scoping of policy and academic literature flagged by the Whole Family Approach Implementation Working Group. These terms were then used to formulate a search strategy. A full list of search terms is found in Appendix A.

The initial search was conducted through Google Scholar in October 2022. The following inclusion criteria were applied to refine the search parameters:

  • Research with a date of publication between 2002 and 2022
  • Publications in English
  • Systemic reviews, evidence reviews, literature reviews, primary academic research and journal articles; and grey literature such as theses, government reports, guidance documents and pilot projects
  • Research that focussed on:
    • Conceptual understandings of family support in the context of substance use,
    • Examples of whole family interventions in the context of substance use,
    • Assessments of the effectiveness of WFAs in improving outcomes across substance use and other domains (including mental health),
    • Best/good practice for aspects of family inclusive practice,
    • Experiences and perspectives of people who have accessed or worked on whole family orientated services, and
    • Discussions on the implication whole family approaches have in terms of changing institutional cultures, upskilling, training and workforce retention.

A number of publications were eliminated following a title and abstract sift. Additional literature was identified using a snowballing approach applied to the bibliographies of relevant publications. A resulting total of 49 papers were included in this review and analysed thematically and presented as a narrative synthesis.

A wide evidence base was reviewed, including qualitative and quantitative primary data and broader theoretical engagements with the field of family practice. The quality of the sources consulted was variable and a quality assurance protocol was applied where appropriate. Specifically, each paper was assessed based on its methodological rigour by taking into consideration the sample size, sample demographics, researcher reflexivity, clarity of research questions, discussion of limitations and – where it was the disciplinary norm – whether the paper had been peer-reviewed. Any research limitations have been noted in reporting the findings in this review.

It is important to highlight that while there are known connections between substance use and other health and social care issues, including mental health conditions, these fall beyond the scope of this review.


Email: socialresearch@gov.scot

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