• action research;
  • trustworthiness;
  • mixed methods design;
  • Italian family members of substance misusers;
  • health services organization


Our project first explored the patterns of disempowerment within 113 Italian families facing the problem of a heavy alcohol or drug user in the family. It then provided therapeutic interventions for the members of a further fifty-two families, and thirdly, as a part of the diffusion of the results, it provided brief training for 1,011 professionals supplying services for those suffering from alcohol and drug addiction. Research undertaken in the UK, Mexico and Australia (Copello, Templeton, & Velleman, 2006; Orford et al., 2005a; Orford, Templeton, Velleman, & Copello, 2005b; Velleman & Templeton, 2003) on the impact of substance misuse on families, and on the development of effective interventions to assist those families, supplied the models for this participatory research in Italy.

This article discusses the mobilization of health professionals in developing a participatory project within a cross-cultural framework, focusing on research that involved more than 70 researchers and other professionals all over Italy. Research team discussions, peer validation of gathered data and reflexivity all had a significant role. The paper illustrates various issues, which are often not explicitly mentioned in research reports, related to recruitment, cooperation between researchers, interactions between researchers and participants, information about decision-making and the actual modalities of execution of the project. Moreover, the careful descriptions of qualitative research principles within the action research approach and a mixed methods design should enhance the research competencies of psychologists and social scientists involved in the community. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.