FAMILY Partnership


If your experience is similar to the hundreds of behavioral health providers we surveyed to prepare this course, you know person-centered, family-driven support is highly effective, and you’re invested in partnering with the individuals you support and their families in your practice.

Some of you may be familiar with the term “family engagement” but new to the concept of family partnership. This course was designed to increase your knowledge and add to your resource bank to move from family engagement to family partnership.

Family Partnership Is Person-Centered

This course will uniquely prepare you to invite, build, and maintain family partnerships in your practice in any behavioral health setting. Family partnerships are relationships that both center the individual seeking support AND foster collaboration with identified family, community members, and friends to improve health outcomes and quality of life. In family partnerships, providers:

  1. Partner with individuals to develop a menu of supports to improve their quality of life,
  2. Support individuals’ choices about goals and outcomes with dignity and respect,
  3. Uphold a process that centers individuals’ decision-making authority regarding their life, and
  4. Relate to individuals as whole human beings, not as a diagnosis or someone who “needs to be fixed.”

The “FAMILY” Approach

We use the “FAMILY” Approach as a framework to explore and practice the core skills and tools for person-centered family partnership. “FAMILY” is an acronym, an abbreviation that uses the first letter of each lesson to spell FAMILY. Each of the six lessons represents a critical area of partnering, applicable across ALL behavioral health settings. The lessons are:

Lesson 1: Facing Personal and Professional Attitudes

Lesson 2: Acknowledging Family Identities and Expertise

Lesson 3: Making Meaningful Partnerships

Lesson 4: Identifying Solutions to Conflict

Lesson 5: Letting Go” to Support

Lesson 6: Yielding to Outside Resources

a family photo of 14 smiling individuals young and old

Working Definitions for the Course

Definitions for key terms used throughout this course include:

  1. Family: beings to whom an individual is connected/related, as perceived by the individual (e.g., given and chosen family, ancestors, partners, neighbors, pets, etc.)
  2. Family-driven: decision-making in the behavioral health partnership led by an individual and their identified family
  3. Partnership: a relationship in which people with joint power work cooperatively to make progress toward a shared goal
  4. Person-centered: focused on and valuing an individual’s identified goals and whole personhood (not diagnosis)

Definitions of key terms are informed by the National Family Support Technical Assistance Center Glossary of Terms, a person-centered, family-driven glossary of critical words and phrases used across behavioral health settings. You can access the glossary in the link above or in the lefthand navigation.

We value your input and welcome you to contact us with feedback on content and/or the use of language in the course.

Terms Excluded from the Course

The following terms are intentionally omitted throughout the course, as they can perpetuate paternalism—making all the decisions for an individual so that they cannot or do not have decision making ability—and authoritarianism, which values order and control over personal freedom and choice, in behavioral health systems.

  1. Care: suggests the passive provision of services by a behavioral health professional; person-centered alternatives include “support” and “partnership”
  2. Empower/empowerment: these terms suggest powerlessness; alternative terms include “encourage autonomy” and “encouragement of autonomy”
  3. Helper/helping: when used to refer to a behavioral health provider, they suggest saving or fixing; alternatives include “partner”, “provider”, and “offering support”
  4. Patient: suggests passivity of person seeking behavioral health support; recovery-oriented alternative terms include “individual” and “person”

Course Navigation

Throughout the course, you will notice:

  1. Six (6) core sections (lessons) comprise the course.
  2. You can advance through lessons with the bottom, left, and right navigations.
  3. 1-2-3 Summaries offer end-of-lesson summaries.
  4. Practice Pauses are interactive exercises to support your learning.
  5. Your answers to Practice Pauses will not be recorded.
  6. Hyperlinks (blue, underlined text) to resources open in new tabs.
  7. Taking notes throughout the course is strongly encouraged.

Getting Started

Before you get started, gather note-taking materials (e.g., paper/pen, file on your computer). To start, click on any lesson on the lefthand navigation, or the start button below.