This randomized controlled trial examined the effectiveness of a 12-session mutual support group conducted over 3-months for Chinese family caregivers of a relative with schizophrenia compared with routine family support services in Hong Kong. Forty-eight family caregivers from two psychiatric outpatient clinics were allocated randomly to an experimental (mutual support and usual outpatient care) group (n=24) or a control (usual outpatient care only) group (n=24). Data were collected prior to, 1 week and 3 months after the intervention. Families allocated to the mutual support group experienced decreased levels of family burden and increased family functioning and these changes were significantly greater than those of the controls at both post-intervention time points. The experimental group also showed a significant decrease in the duration of patient re-hospitalization (the total number of days of psychiatric hospitalization) at 3 months compared with the control group. This suggests that the mutual support group provided a more responsive service for patients than standard care. However, there was no significant difference in family service utilization between the two groups. The findings indicate that a mutual support group can provide benefits for family caregivers of people with schizophrenia that go beyond those provided by routine family support. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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