Open Dialogue is a philosophical/theoretical approach to people experiencing an emotional crisis as well as a way of structuring mental health services to be more responsive to people’s needs. The emphasis is on being in dialogue – with people in crisis and with their social networks.
Open Dialogue developed in Western Lapland, Finland, in the 1980s, in collaboration with an international network of people who were interested in a cluster of ideas, including dialogical practices, systemic family therapy, reflecting teams, Batesonian cybernetics, Bahktinian narrative and Needs-Adapted approaches (amongst others). Parallels have been drawn between Open Dialogue and the Hearing Voices movement, although the two developed independently. Communities around the world have been inspired by Open Dialogue and are adapting its principles in their own contexts – today it makes sense to speak of Open Dialogues (in the plural), or dialogical practices.
In Australia, there has been significant interest in Open Dialogue. The St Vincent’s Open Dialogue Initiative in Sydney is offering several trainings in Open Dialogue. There are many people across Australia who have been influenced by the Open Dialogue approach – in 2014, Jaakko Seikkula and Markku Sutela (from Finland) offered a series of trainings across many Australian cities. More recently, a one-year Foundation training has been conducted in Hervey Bay (QLD), and briefer trainings have been offered in Sydney and the Blue Mountains (NSW) and Fremantle (WA). There are also two independent Open Dialogue practitioners in Australia, who have studied through Open Dialogue UK. Watch this space, as more possibilities emerge!