‘Should it fit? Yes. Does it fit? No’: Exploring the organisational processes of introducing a recovery-oriented approach to mental health in Australian private health care

Lisa Dawson, Jo River, Andrea McCloughen, Niels Buus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the implementation of an innovative approach to mental health care in a private health setting. Open Dialogue is a recovery-oriented approach to mental health that emerged in Finland, which emphasises family involvement, interdisciplinary collaboration and a flexible, needs-adapted approach. Early research is promising; however, little research has explored Open Dialogue outside Finland. This study aimed to explore the introduction of this approach at a private, inpatient young-adult mental health unit in Australia. Drawing on data from a long-term ethnographic field study that included 190 hours of observation and qualitative interviews, the findings show that despite staff members being inspired by and supportive of Open Dialogue, the existing ideology and organisational structures of the unit conflicted with the integration of Open Dialogue principles. Dialogical ways of working were challenged by medical dominance and emphasis on economic efficiencies. This study emphasises the importance of a ‘good’ fit between organisational cultures and innovations. It also highlights the challenges of moving towards recovery-oriented and family-focused models of care in the Australian neoliberal health care context. There is a need for organisational and ideological change in health services that is receptive to, and meaningfully supports, efforts to implement recovery-oriented care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)376-394
Number of pages19
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • ethnography
  • implementation
  • mental health
  • Open Dialogue
  • recovery model

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