Family Coaching Clinics A Uniquely New Way to Provide Behavioral Health Services

Dec 22, 2009, 3:01 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

Last week, the UCLA Family Commons, a retail-based model designed to deliver behavioral health prevention and early intervention services to families in an accessible way, opened its doors to provide the community a free week-long preview of its services. Located in Santa Monica, the UCLA Family Commons is a prototype family coaching clinic developed by the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and funded by Pioneer.

The concept caught our eye in 2007 when it was chosen as a winner in Ashoka’s Disruptive Innovations in Health and Health Care competition. Modeled after the successful retail health clinic model, we saw it as a promising way to empower consumers. The Family Coaching Clinics model provides families with the support, guidance and structured approach to problem solving that a preventive approach to mental health offers.  Targeted at families with children of all ages, the UCLA Family Commons provides evidence-based products and services to help address problems and stressors that affect so many families – learning to set appropriate limits at different ages, coping with the effects of divorce, developing good eating habits, dealing with bullying in school and so on. The concept is based around the belief that many issues children and families face can be managed if addressed early, and siting the clinics in storefront retail locations reduces the stigma associated with traditional mental or behavioral health counseling, allowing the expert teams at UCLA to reach families who might otherwise never seek out traditional services or might not do so until crises arise.

Through December 23, the community can drop in and try out a variety of the clinic’s services. The UCLA Family Commons will then close its doors until its grand opening in early February. If proven successful, project leaders will aim to recreate the Family Commons model in other markets, creating a network of retail-based family coaching clinics. The approach could transform treatment and delivery systems for common childhood problems and, ultimately, change public perceptions of the role of prevention and early intervention in mental health care.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.