Outcomes of a randomized study of a peer-taught Family-to-Family Education Program for mental illness

Psychiatr Serv. 2011 Jun;62(6):591-7. doi: 10.1176/ps.62.6.pss6206_0591.


Objective: The Family-to-Family Education Program (FTF) is a 12-week course offered by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) for family members of adults with mental illness. This study evaluated the course's effectiveness.

Methods: A total of 318 consenting participants in five Maryland counties were randomly assigned to take FTF immediately or to wait at least three months for the next available class with free use of any other NAMI supports or community or professional supports. Participants were interviewed at study enrollment and three months later (at course termination) regarding problem- and emotion-focused coping, subjective illness burden, and distress. A linear mixed-effects multilevel regression model tested for significant changes over time between intervention conditions.

Results: FTF participants had significantly greater improvements in problem-focused coping as measured by empowerment and illness knowledge. Exploratory analyses revealed that FTF participants had significantly enhanced emotion-focused coping as measured by increased acceptance of their family member's illness, as well as reduced distress and improved problem solving. Subjective illness burden did not differ between groups.

Conclusions: This study provides evidence that FTF is effective for enhancing coping and empowerment of families of persons with mental illness, although not for reducing subjective burden. Other benefits for problem solving and reducing distress are suggested but require replication.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Caregivers / education*
  • Caregivers / psychology
  • Consumer Organizations
  • Cost of Illness
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maryland
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Middle Aged
  • Peer Group*
  • Power, Psychological
  • Problem Solving
  • Social Support
  • Surveys and Questionnaires