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.

5. Conclusion

There are a number of clear examples of good practice within the existing literature on whole family approach. This includes challenging barriers to participation by offering flexible support, acknowledging and addressing the wider context in which substance use occurs and providing holistic support, working collaboratively and creatively with service users, and addressing the needs of the whole family unit and the individuals within it. It is important for services to intervene in a timely manner and on a long-term basis, as well as providing a range of practical and peer support for their service users.

WFA interventions have been evidenced to yield an array of positive outcomes across a range of domains (e.g. substance use, health, social and educational). However, due to limitations in the methodology and focus of existing research, there is limited overall clarity about the effectiveness of specific elements within WFA interventions and a number of caveats are noted with regards to the current literature.

Finally, there is also some evidence that the implementation of a WFA requires an ideological shift in current workforce practices, which carries implications for training and skills development. Once again, the specifics of the implications of implementing a WFA for the workforce remains underdeveloped in the evidence base.

The following section identifies further avenues for research.

5.1 Further areas for investigation

From this review on the existing literature relating to WFA, it is possible to make a number of recommendations for further research. The review identified a number of areas that would benefit from further exploration.

1. There is scope to further clarify and define what constitutes a WFA and how this differs from other terminology used in the field of child protection and beyond.

2. The effectiveness of services has been evaluated with regards to whole services as opposed to their individual components, therefore the effectiveness of elements within an intervention remains unclear and would benefit from further research.

3. There is little evidence on the implication on the workforce in adopting WFAs and there remains little consideration as to 'what works' in terms of specific training methods and upskilling resources for practitioners – these remain defined by core principles and ethos rather than definitive examples.


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