What is "Let's Talk About Families"?

A recovery model for parents with a mental illness

Parenting is a major part of many people's lives that can bring rewards and challenges. For adults with a mental illness it can involve additional challenges but can also facilitate recovery. Let's Talk About Children is a therapeutic intervention that brings parenting into the conversations between parents and their mental health care workers.

During Let's Talk About Children, parents have a structured discussion with their health care worker about their experiences of being a parent with a mental illness. Concerns and challenges are acknowledged, but strengths and achievements are also highlighted. This discussion is framed around the development of children in the family. Further conversation empowers the parent to address their parenting concerns and take steps towards further supporting their family.

Professor Tytti Solantaus, who developed the program, talks to Associate Professor Andrea Reupert.

What is involved in Let's Talk About Children?

Let's Talk About Children involves three core conversations between a parent and their health care worker.

Preliminary discussion

This is an overview of the process so that the parent knows what to expect. The preliminary discussion sets the tone for further discussions by acknowledging that:

  • all families have strengths that can be utilised and vulnerabilities that can be addressed
  • the parent is the expert on their child/ren
  • the parent may be hesitant or uncomfortable about the topic area; hesitancies can be explored and addressed in this preliminary discussion.

Discussion 1

This is a conversation that is structured around a  developmental log. The parent and health care worker explore the development of the child/ren in a range of areas such as relationships, schooling and emotions. The developmental log also promotes discussion about the parents experiences, hopes and concerns for their child/ren. This discussion assists to identify what is going well for the parent and the children, and what areas may require more support.

Discussion 2

Specific topics from discussion 1 are revisited that are relevant to the development of the child/ren, the mental health of the parent and general functioning of the family. Consideration is paid to parents making choices about steps that can be made by the parent to address family vulnerabilities and enhance strengths. Parent or other family members may also be linked to additional resources.

Benefits for families

Research in Finland, where the program was developed, reported that Let's Talk About Children had many benefits for families. Benefits for parents included:

  • more motivation to overcome mental health difficulties
  • better self-understanding
  • fewer worries about their children

Some benefits for children were:

  • fewer emotional difficulties
  • less anxiety
  • more positive social behaviour
  • a better understanding of their parent

Let's Talk About Children has been adapted for Australian families.