The Beacon Strategy

The Beacon Strategy is an evolving methodological approach to achieving sector wide practice change.

It is grounded in our workforce development experience and in the emerging field of implementation science that looks beyond training to consider the range of complex factors that must be considered when attempting to introduce a new practice.

It seeks to embed a new practice as a beacon for the sector, shedding light on how services can effectively implement new ways of working with clients and their families.

We approach each new project as an opportunity to learn more about implementation, with the aim of continually becoming more effective and efficient in achieving large scale practice change.

While components of the approach are customised to fit each particular service system, the strategy involves the following key elements:

  • achieving and demonstrating real and sustainable practice change
  • working in collaboration with partner organisations to implement change
  • sharing experiences and learning to support implementation efforts and to grow knowledge
  • sustained involvement to deliver meaningful change
  • a multi-modal and multi-level approach to implementation
  • implementation requires ‘learning by doing’ and being able to respond flexibly to changed circumstances making action research particularly well suited to the study of this area.

Read about our Beacon projects and how it has been applied to various service settings.

Mental health

The Community Care Unit Beacon Project (CCU Beacon) trials the use of an evidence-based family intervention, Behavioural Family Therapy (BFT), in Community Care Units.

The project also addresses the question of how family interventions can be best implemented and sustained in the CCU setting.

Together with four selected CCUs across Victoria, we are providing pre-training consultation, a four-day BFT training program for up to four clinicians from each of the participating CCUs and follow up support. For further information contact Hanna Jewell.

This project supports adult and aged persons mental health services in their implementation of Single Session Family Consultation (SSFC) by providing 10 sessions of practice and implementation consultations for up to five services over the course of 2020.

A secondary aim of the project is to better understand the role and value of a consultation program in the implementation of family-based practices. For further information contact Brendan O’Hanlon.

The Open Dialogue-SSFC Beacon aims to develop and trial an Open Dialogue informed Single Session Family Consultation model in partnership with two youth-based clinical mental health services.

Guided by a co-design/action research process, we are partnering with Open Dialogue and Lived Experience workforce practitioners and trainers. For further information contact Peter McKenzie.

The Mental Health Beacon Project (Acute Psychiatric Inpatient Services) aimed to enhance the provision of family meetings in a psychiatric in-patient setting through the introduction of a best practice model of Single Session Family Consultation (SSFC).

We worked in partnership with four psychiatric in-patient services over 18 months to implement SSFC as an alternative to a routine family meeting.


Overall, 26 practitioners were trained in SSFC, including six consultant psychiatrists. Use of SSFC varied markedly across the four services however families participating in sessions were highly satisfied. For further information contact Peter McKenzie.

In the Catchment Beacon Project, we worked with clinical mental health, Mental Health Community Support and AOD services located within a rural and a metropolitan catchment to implement a family inclusive practice model.

A novel process was used to identify issues in service delivery and to select Single Session Family Consultation (SSFC) as the preferred family inclusive practice.


There were 154 practitioners trained, 273 SSFC sessions delivered and significant improvement in practitioners’ confidence in working with families was reported, however the objectives of a shared vision and greater co-ordination of services for families within catchments were not achieved.

Read the report [PDF 1MB]

Mental Health Beacon aimed to implement family-based approaches in partnership with eight Victorian publicly funded mental health services (across six sites). As well as improving services’ response to families, the project also aimed to generate and share knowledge about how to best implement family interventions.

Services implemented one of three evidence-based family interventions – 'Behavioural Family Therapy' (BFT), 'Multiple Family Group' (MFG) and a parenting intervention, 'Let’s Talk.' At four of the sites, 'Single Session Family Consultation' (SSFC), a brief practice model designed to engage families was introduced as a precursor to BFT and MFG.

The project employed a ‘champion’ approach to implementation while each partner service also received ongoing support from one of our experienced family practice consultant.


In total, 242 SSFC and 111 Let’s Talk sessions were conducted and a Multiple Family Group program was commenced during the project. SSFC and Let’s Talk were rated highly by families, practitioners reported increased provision of family support and improved levels of organisation support. However, uptake of interventions varied considerably across services and family interventions. View the report [PDF 1.6 MB].


In 2009, we received funding from the Office of Gaming and Racing, Department of Justice in 2009, and later from the Victorian Responsible Gaming Foundation (VRGF), to assist Gambler’s Help (GH) services to:

  • improve engagement of people with gambling problems, their families and other services
  • build capacity to ensure innovative practices are developed, embedded and sustained in the long term
  • establish closer working relationships with Mental Health (MH), Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD), and Family Services (FS) organisations.

This project brought workers from GH, MH and AOD services together for the purposes of learning and sharing their experiences of implementing a new practice approach – one with mass appeal.

Many professionals from these diverse sectors have since participated in our joint professional development activities, including training in Single Session Family Consultations, booster workshops such as Managing Conflict in a Family Session, and monthly Practice Enquiry Groups (in which representatives discuss the clinical application and implementation of SSFC based on their own and other colleagues’ experiences).

In service of the funding agreement with VRGF, we also host and facilitate a regular forum for portfolio service workers to meet and discuss their experiences in integrating problem gambling services within the broader system of care for problem gamblers and their families.

Alcohol and other drugs (AOD)

In 2008, we were funded by the then Department of Health to deliver a strategy for workforce development in the AOD sector which broadly sought to encourage a shift away from individually focused practice towards the inclusion of family, and other people important in the life of the individual with problematic substance use, as part of core service delivery.

View a comprehensive project report [PDF 3.9 MB]