Integrating Behavioural Family Therapy (BFT) into undergraduate pre-registration mental health nursing education.


When did you first introduce the innovation?

More than 24 months ago

Please describe the innovation you have developed

BFT is a structured programme of support developed by the Meriden Family Programme ( BFT is widely recognised, nationally and internationally, as an evidenced based approach to providing psycho-education and stress reduction strategies for families and carers – particularly where a member of the family has a mental illness.

The key innovation is that the training for BFT is five days and the full five days have been fully incorporated into the pre-registration nursing curriculum for pre-registration mental health nursing students in their final year.

What prompted you to develop this innovation?

The desire to develop such an initiative into pre-registration education was three fold.

Firstly there was a desire to ensure that mental health nursing graduates were adequately skilled and equipped educationally to support families, especially where a family member was experiencing mental illness. This is particularly significant as family and carer involvement is referenced in NICE clinical guidelines for schizophrenia; bipolar disorder; depression; depression in long term conditions; and eating disorders ( Lack of support and information is also an area of concern raised by families and carers (

Secondly, in discussion with pre-registration mental health nursing students, they demonstrated a keen desire to support family and carers but felt that they were not fully confident in their abilities to meet family and carer needs beyond referring to other support services. BFT gives the students an evidenced based structure to work with families in supporting psycho-education and stress reduction strategies (

Finally, employers have indicated that they value the student having undergone a structured programme of family support. Students also report that they have felt this experience has been instrumental in acquiring employment in organisations that fall outside of their course experience and had ‘given them the edge’ in interviews.

In your view, what is it about this innovation that makes it different/important?

BFT was develop by the Meriden Family Programme ( and has national and international recognition.

The programme is delivered in the pre-registration nursing curriculum for mental health nurses and the complete five day programme is delivered by Lecturers who have completed the BFT training the trainers course and have used BFT in practice.

This innovation is different in that it is completely integrated into a module which forms part of the pre-registration nursing curriculum.

To what extent does your innovation make use of existing approaches, resources or technologies?

All resources (DVD) and supporting materials (Family work manual) are provided by Meriden Family Programme. All students receive and retain BFT work manuals as part of their course materials provided by the University.

The sessions involve extensive role play and practice orientated skills development.

To what degree has this innovation led to changes in education or clinical practice?

1. There has been an increased emphasis on the skills required to support families and carers.

2. Students have been provided with a structured evidenced based approach to delivering family and carer interventions in clinical practice.

3. All necessary supporting resources are provided by Meriden Family Programme as an integral aspect of the course content.

4. Students retain workbooks to continue working with families post-qualification.

What evidence do you have of the impact of the innovation?

BFT has also been researched and extensively evaluated by the Meriden Family Programme.

Student evaluations have consistently evaluated the BFT programme excellently. Students have found the approach useful in clinical practice and additionally report that employers have valued that they have completed the BFT programme.

To what degree has the innovation been disseminated in your organisation or elsewhere?

This innovation has been shared internally and with external organisations during revalidation and reviews of the pre-registration mental health nursing programme.

Please provide details of any plans you have to disseminate the innovation in the future.

As a number of student cohorts have now completed the full BFT programme it would be timely to undertake a study researching the use of BFT in clinical practice post-qualifying and to seek publication of these findings once known.