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Open Dialogue approach

Yasmin Ishaq, a social worker and Open Dialogue lead for mental health services in Kent, explores how we can use the principles of open dialogue to develop mental health social work.

In open dialogue and dialogical practice, the importance of listening to the stories of what has happened and how everyone present experiences the emotional crisis is the start of a collaborative journey between an individual, family/network and group of practitioners/clinicians. What emerges in the shared experience is not prescribed by the professionals involved; rather more importance is given to the narrative of the stories. How they are told and heard becomes more important to understanding the context of the distress. Instead of the focus being on changing the presenting behaviour or managing symptoms of distress, the main therapeutic effort takes place in the space between those present in the network. 

From a social work perspective, enabling the mobilisation of individual, family and community capability using the principles of open dialogue can provide a practice framework that promotes inclusivity and empowerment in terms of shared decision-making and understanding. We will be consulting and involving stakeholders in the progression of this work and welcome discussion.

For more information about our projects email: mentalhealth@hee.nhs.uk