Open dialogue trainees' perspectives on learning processes and psychotherapeutic practice: A prospective focus group study

Niels Buus*, Ben Ong, Andrea McCloughen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Open Dialogue is a collaborative approach to mental health care emphasizing integrated services and a dialogical psychotherapy approach. Open Dialogue training programs eschew traditional didactic teaching of technical therapeutic skills in favor of more experiential learning processes. It is unclear how these training programs affect trainees and shape their perspectives on Open Dialogue. Our aim was to follow up a group of Australian Open Dialogue trainees and explore their perspectives on learning processes and psychotherapeutic practice. We utilized a prospective focus group design with data from audio-recorded focus groups convened before (n = 2) and after (n = 3) participants completing an advanced Open Dialogue training program. Data were subjected to reflective thematic analysis. We identified the theme “Extending possibilities by holding ideas lightly,” which represented a universal principle that participants applied to multiple aspects of their practice, for example, favoring multiple perspectives and approaches to therapy, including those other than Open Dialogue. This theme had two sub-themes: (1) “Allowing intimacy by being aware of personal biographies” and (2) “Learning by joining others,” which reflected an increased willingness by participants to reflect on and share their inner experiences and an emphasis on joint experiential exercises in the training program. “Extending possibilities by holding ideas lightly” facilitated a means of incorporating a dialogical perspective into existing practices thus avoiding the potential barriers to a wholesale implementation of Open Dialogue. Findings indicated that the participants were not learning how to practice a therapeutic technique or propositional knowledge, but were socialized into a dialogical way of being.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFamily Process
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)993-1005
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Family Process published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Family Process Institute.


  • focus group
  • open dialogue
  • thematic analysis
  • training


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