Insights from the family conference: Observations in rehabilitation


Patricia Fronek, PhD, is Senior Social Worker, Rehabilitation and Disability in Queensland Spinal Cord Injuries Service. Email:


Family conferences are regularly conducted in a number of settings. However, the published literature offers limited insight into the conference environment as created by the interdisciplinary team. The level of client participation in this process remains unclear. A participatory observation study was conducted with an accidental sample in a spinal injuries rehabilitation setting. Language and behaviours exhibited by family conference members provided data for analysis. The findings indicate that individuals with a disability were participatory members in the family conference and were able to express their point of view even if it differed from the view of the professional team. However, the finding that family members were less engaged in the process suggests that they have different needs to the person with a disability and these needs might have to be met in a different way. It is important that professionals develop an awareness of their own language and behaviours and the potential impact of these factors on the individual and the family in family conference processes.