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Report shows government-funded therapy helps parents ‘in conflict’ and their children

Published in Press Releases by Tavistock Relationships on September 21st 2023

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In the light of new funding approach, Tavistock Relationships calls on government to issue evidence-based guidance to support local authorities to commission the most effective types of help for families.

An evaluation of a government programme to reduce parental conflict and improve the lives of parents and children, whose mental and physical health is negatively impacted, has concluded it was highly successful. More than 2,500 parents received one of seven different programmes of therapy tested in the evaluation between 2019 and 2022, and the report evaluates which were the most effective.

Overall, the therapies tested in the Reducing Parental Conflict programme were found to be effective:

  • for the families in this programme, which included workless families, minority ethnic families and separated parents as well as those who were together;
  • parental relationship conflict significantly reduced; and
  • children’s mental health and wellbeing also improved.

Notably, these improvements were sustained when families were followed up six and 12 months later – with some things continuing to get better even after the programmes had ended.

The majority of parents who took part were assessed as being in ‘high conflict’ and therefore needing more intensive help. The evaluation report shows that it was the ‘high intensity’ programmes, which were designed to help such families, that were shown to be most effective and, of these, Mentalization – Based Therapy (MBT) evidenced the greatest improvements of all.

Originally developed by Profs Fonagy and Bateman, Mentalization-Based Therapy (MBT) was adapted for parents in conflict and delivered by Tavistock Relationships. This programme aims to increase parents’ awareness of the emotional impact of their conflict on their children and improve their emotional regulation and conflict-management.

Parents who participated in the programme reported that of all the different types of approach tested, Mentalization -Based Therapy (MBT) was the ‘closest to what parents might expect from an intervention about parental conflict’. This may explain why it saw the largest number of participants, with the majority engaging with the programme to its completion.

Until 2022 funding for this kind of support for parents was allocated directly to the organisations providing it. Since then, this money is being made available to local authorities who are then responsible for making this support available to families.

Tavistock Relationships is calling for evidence-based commissioning guidance to be provided to all local authorities to ensure that parents who most need this support can benefit from the programmes which the government’s evaluation has shown to be the most effective.

Andrew Balfour, CEO of Tavistock Relationships, says:

“Policy makers have known for some years that intense and sustained inter-parental conflict is highly damaging for children as well as for parents themselves. But until now, we have not had the evidence to tell us which programmes can make a difference to families on the ground.

“The evaluation of this innovative programme of therapies at last provides strong evidence for the effectiveness of programmes such as Mentalisation Based Therapy to sustainedly reduce parental conflict. Now the Government has invested over several years in producing this evidence it must be translated into clear guidance for local authorities to ensure that evidence-based commissioning provides effective help to those families most in need of it.

“Having invested so much taxpayers’ money into the programme, the Government should now publish advice to local authorities setting out the benefits to parents and children of commissioning those interventions which have been found to be successful, in order that all parents in conflict across the country can access the help they need.”

For more information about Tavistock Relationships, go to

Read the Governments full report here:

Read a summary of the Government’s Diary research here:


For more press information contact:

  • Paula Scott, PR Consultant T: 07932 740221 E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Notes for editors

Established in 1948, Tavistock Relationships is the charity helping individuals and couples to have better relationships

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