PsychOdyssey 360: Multifamily Groups

Multifamily group treatment (MFGT) is an evidence-based modality for helping individuals and their families navigate the maelstrom of mental illness, particularly schizophrenia. Integrating psychoeducation and behavior family  therapy in a multiple-family group format, multifamily group treatment was first pioneered in the 1960s. Since the 1990s it has evolved with a coherent theoretical model and empirical evidence for its effectiveness.The work of Dr. William McFarlane in particular has greatly contributed to the model’s refinement and acceptance.

There are four stages in the McFarlane MFGT model: joining among individual consumers and families, conducting an educational workshop about the illness, relapse prevention through problem-solving groups, and vocational and social skills rehabilitation. MFGT is generally delivered by two clinicians to groups of 5-8 families over a two year period. A main theoretical foundation of MFGT is that by increasing social network size and support by enabling families to benefit from each other’s experiences in solving problems, better illness course and improved outcome occur.


Dixon, L., McFarlane, W. R., Lefley, H., Lucksted, A., Cohen, M., Falloon, I., . . . Sondheimer, D. (2001). Evidence-based practices for services to families of people with psychiatric disabilities. Psychiatric Services, 52(7), 903-910. doi: 10.1176/

Goldstein, M. J. (1994). Psychoeducational and family therapy in relapse prevention. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 89, 54-57.

Hazel, N. A., McDonell, M. G., Short, R. A., Berry, C. M., Voss, W. D., Rodgers, M. L., & Dyck, D. G. (2004). Multiple-family groups and psychoeducation in the treatment of schizophrenia. Psychiatric Services, 55(1), 35-41. doi: 10.1176/

Jewell, T. C., Downing, D., & McFarlane, W. R. (2009). Partnering with families: Multiple family group psychoeducation for schizophrenia. [Article]. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65(8), 868-878. doi: 10.1002/jclp.20610

Leff, J. (2000). Family work for schizophrenia: practical application. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 107(Suppl 407), 78-82.

McFarlane, W. R. (2004). Multifamily groups in the treatment of severe psychiatric disorders. New York: The Guilford Press. (Read PsychOdyssey’s review of this book here.)

McFarlane, W. R., Dunne, E., Lukens, E., Newmark, M., McLaughlin-Toran, J., Deakins, S., & Horen, B. (1993). From research to clinical practice: Dissemination of New York state’s family psychoeducation program. Hospital & Community Psychiatry, 44(3), 265-270.

McFarlane, W. R., Lukens, E., & Link, B., et al. . (1995). Multiple-family groups and psychoeducation in the treatment of schizophrenia. Archives of General Psychiatry, 52, 679-687.

McFarlane, W. R., D,ixon, L., Lukens, E., & Lucksted, A. (2003). Family psychoeducation and schizophrenia: A review of the literature. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 29(2), 223.

SAMHSA (2009). Family psychoeducation evidence-based practices (EBP) kit. Rockville, MD: Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from

Sauceda, M. (2011). Family psychoeducation for Latino populations with mental illness living in the United States [course paper]. University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Scotch Plains, NJ.

Sherman, M., Fischer, E., Sorocco, K., & McFarlane, W. (2009). Adapting the multifamily group model to the Veterans Affairs system–The REACH program. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 40(6), 593-600. doi: 10.1037/a0016333

Stuart, B. K., & Schlosser, D. A. (2009). Multifamily group treatment for schizophrenia. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 59(3), 435-441.

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