The use of Open Dialogue in Trauma Informed Care services for mental health consumers and their family networks: A scoping review

Phil Maude, Russell James, Adam Searby

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


What is known on the subject?: Open Dialogue was developed in Finland in the 1980s by clinical psychologist, Jaakko Seikkula. It is a development of family therapy, recognises previous trauma and has proven to be very effective in situations of acute mental illness, and in particular psychosis. Trauma Informed Care is a practice based on the understanding of and responsiveness to the impact of trauma. When people have experienced trauma, they may have difficulties in their everyday life and experience negative physical health outcomes as well as the risk of developing mental ill health. Open Dialogue is aligned to mental health care which aims to be trauma-informed, person-centred and rights-based. Examples exist of the use of both approaches for service delivery with limited evaluation. What the paper adds to existing knowledge?: To our knowledge, no formal evaluation has been made of the use of open dialogue as a Trauma Informed therapy approach to support individuals and their family networks. Although both approaches recognise the impact of trauma on individuals, no study has explored the effectiveness of this treatment combination for use by mental health nurses. This review is timely as it provides insights into contemporary services that are trauma informed and have used Open Dialogue to extend therapy work with individuals and their family/networks. This scoping review was able to determine whether recommendations for clinical practice and training in Open Dialogue with Trauma Informed Care approaches could be identified. What are the implications for practice?: This review provided a broad overview on the current types of trauma-informed care services incorporating Open Dialogue approaches into their practice. The literature, though sparce, identifies that Trauma Informed Care recognises multiple origins for mental ill health. Open dialogue has an affinity with the common values of mental health nurses. As combined therapies, they are demonstrating usefulness in engaging families and people in their journey towards recovery. Rigid adherence to Open Dialogue focus and delivery as well as training practices could be revised to make them more open to what people and their families wish to discuss. The person with mental ill health and previous trauma should be able to direct the narrative. Trauma Informed Practice principles could be adapted to improve consumer satisfaction with Open Dialogue approaches. Abstract: Introduction: A large proportion of people who access mental health services have a lived experienced of trauma and are more likely to have a history of complex trauma. Open Dialogue and Trauma Informed Care practices identify previous trauma as a factor related to later psychosis. This scoping review has identified similarities and contrasts in how an Open Dialogue and Trauma Informed Care approach have been combined to complement one another for clinical work with people presenting with psychosis and previous trauma. Aim: We aimed to answer the following research question in this scoping review: What is known of the combined use of Open Dialogue and Trauma Informed Care practice when working with consumers and their family networks? As such, the purpose of this paper was to explore the application to practice and identify if any training existed and been evaluated. Method: This scoping review was based on the Arksey and O'Malley's framework. A comprehensive search was performed across five electronic databases. Grey literature was also searched through Psyche Info and Google Scholar for books, Dissertation and Theses, alongside hand searching of the reference of the studies. Articles searched was from January 2013 to January 2023. Results: Five distinct themes were identified from the literature: (1) Linking open dialogue with trauma, (2) Response to treatment, (3) Empowerment and information sharing, (4) Interpretation by clinical services, (5) Staff training outcomes. Discussion: Some tentative recommendations for practice recognised the individuals' unique story and perspective, suggested that trauma is an important concept to assess. Services practising as Trauma Informed Services that have incorporated an Open Dialogue approach have mixed experiences. The use of Open Dialogue may have some benefits for family work and exploring consumer narratives while building a network of support. However, consumers identified similar frustrations with service delivery as with the family therapy literature. For example, it was difficult to bring family members together and difficult to discuss previous traumatic events in front of family. People experiencing training in Open Dialogue reported it taking a slow pace and not what they were familiar with. Implications for Practice: Open Dialogue can facilitate engagement of consumers and their family networks and greater recognition of the peer workforce to promote collaboration in therapy is needed. Future research should also focus on evaluating the effectiveness of such services and comparing their outcomes across regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • mental health
  • Open Dialogue
  • psychosis
  • Trauma Informed Care
  • Trauma Informed Practice

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