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Mental Health Trainee Abstract

Mental Health Trainee Facilitation of Sibling Support Groups: Understanding its Influence on Views and Skills of Family-Centered Care

Practice Gap:

Family involvement and interactions are listed as core competencies for trainees by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (1,2). Research suggests that clinicians share this view and identify skills gained by working with families as important and useful, yet they also report that family-centered skills have historically been among the least taught during training (3-5). The Sibling Support Program: A Family-Centered Mental Health Initiative describes a novel approach to including family experience during training through trainee facilitation of a sibling support group for siblings of child and adolescent patients with mental illness.


The Sibling Support Program: A Family-Centered Mental Health Initiative is an elective learning opportunity for trainees in Psychiatry, Psychology, and Social Work to facilitate a support group for siblings of patients admitted to a child and adolescent psychiatric unit, with goals of improving family-centered care and promoting family-centered values and skills among trainees. The program also offers a unique opportunity for exposure to normal childhood development for mental health trainees through working with siblings. In this program, trainee facilitators co-lead a support group in which siblings discuss their experiences growing up with a sibling with mental health needs. They also develop ways to cope with their sibling’s mental illness. To evaluate the trainee experience of participation in this program, two adult psychiatry residents with faculty mentorship surveyed facilitator trainees and a control group of non-facilitator trainees about their experience and views of family-centered care. Facilitator trainees also received a second survey to assess their views of their experience leading a sibling support group. The results of these surveys indicated that trainees who participated in this elective had more experience with family-centered care during their training (p<0.05), reported greater comfort in using family-centered skills (p<0.05), and had greater desire to practice in a family-centered way in the future (p<0.05). General psychiatry residency and fellowship training programs that want to improve exposure to family-centered care for their trainees may consider creating similar opportunities for trainees to facilitate sibling support groups.


1. Berman, Ellen, and Alison M. Heru. 2005. Family systems training in psychiatric residencies. Family Process. doi:10.1111/j.1545-5300.2005.00062.x.

2. Berman, Ellen M, Alison M Heru, Henry Grunebaum, John Rolland, Beatrice Wood, and Heidi Bruty. 2006. Family Skills for General Psychiatry Residents: Meeting ACGME Core Competency Requirements. Academic Psychiatry30: 69–78. doi:10.1176/appi.ap.30.1.69.

3. Rickerby, Michelle L, and Thomas A Roesler. 2015. Training Child Psychiatrists in Family-Based Integrated Care. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America24: 501–515. doi:

4. Slovik, Lois S, James L Griffith, Linda Forsythe, and Alexis Polles. 1997. Redefining the Role of Family Therapy in Psychiatric Residency Education. Academic Psychiatry 21: 35–41. doi:10.1007/BF03341895.

5. Celano, Marianne, Shannon Croft, and Erin Morrissey-Kane. 2002. Family Evaluation Clinic. Academic Psychiatry26: 17–25. doi:10.1176/appi.ap.26.1.17.

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