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The Journey of Hope Family Education Course Outcomes Project

Journey of Hope Program Evaluation

Church-Based Support Groups for Families of Persons with Mental Illness

Family Coping and Resiliency

Journey of Hope Program Evaluation

What is Journey of Hope?

The goals of the Journey of Hope (JOH) program are twofold.  First of all, the program provides basic education and skills training to families of persons with mental illness.  JOH also gives these families the practical and emotional support they need to sustain them in their role as primary caregivers.  The JOH program consists of two parts: an eight-week education course and an ongoing support group.  Family members participate in the program according to their own needs and are not required to participate in both  program components.  JOH is offered nationwide by the JOH Institute, which is located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

JOH was developed in 1993 by members of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI).   Founded on the belief that families are best equipped to offer education and support to other family members, all JOH education course teachers and support group leaders are trained volunteer family members who have  relatives with mental illness; they are not paid professionals. In addition to its family-to-family focus, JOH is unique in that, unlike other family education and support programs, which require that participants be  the parents of an adult with mental illness, JOH is available to any caregiver of a person with mental illness.  This includes all family members, friends, and any mental health service consumers who are themselves caring for a loved one with mental illness.


In order to determine whether JOH was achieving its goals, a program evaluation funded by NAMI-Louisiana and the Center for Mental Health Services was conducted by Drs. Susan  Pickett and Judith Cook in 1996.  This evaluation consisted of four components:

  • Mail surveys completed by a random sample of 424 JOH program participants.  The mail surveys assessed individuals' demographic characteristics, JOH program participation, overall program satisfaction,  participation outcomes, and caregiving burden.
  • Surveys completed by 1,910 education course participants and 362 education course teachers.  These surveys were collected by Dr. Joyce Burland, the creator of the education course.  This course is  now known as NAMI's Family-to-Family Education Course.  Education course evaluations measured participants' demographic characteristics, course content quality, satisfaction with the course, and impact  of course on participants' relationships with their ill relatives.  Teacher evaluations consisted of four open-ended items soliciting information on how the class received the course, personal  experiences teaching the course, willingness to teach the course again, and suggestions for improving the course.
  • Support group facilitator training questionnaires completed by 412 support group leaders.  Items assessed changes in participants' group facilitation skills.
  • Focus groups in which 41 individuals provided feedback about their participation in the JOH program and made suggestions about ways to improve the program. 

Evaluation Results

Throughout each component of  the evaluation, participants were overwhelmingly positive about the Journey of Hope program and the ways in which participation in the program enhanced their ability to cope with their loved one's mental illness.   A summary of evaluation results is listed below.

  • The majority of JOH participants were Caucasian, middle-aged mothers of sons with schizophrenia.
  • JOH participants reported high degrees of satisfaction with both the education course and the support group.
  • Overall JOH program participation outcomes included increased knowledge of the causes of mental illness and the methods used to treat mental illness, better understanding of how to manage the ill family  member's difficult behavior, and improved morale.
  • Participation in the JOH program did not appear to affect caregiving burden.
  • JOH education course participants gave high ratings to the quality of the course and its content.
  • JOH education course teachers felt that the course increased participants' knowledge about the causes, course and treatment of mental illness.  They also stated that teaching the course was personally  rewarding and that they planned to continue their involvement in the program.
  • Support group leaders reported that the training sessions increased their ability to facilitate group meetings.

Program Recommendations

The following  recommendations are based on evaluation results and participants' suggestions about how to improve the program. 

  • Provide updated information on medications, particularly those recently approved for the use by the FDA.
  • Provide information on changes in public entitlements, managed care, and legal issues affecting the treatment of persons with mental illness.
  • Use a variety of formats to present education course material, such as videotapes, slides, and guest speakers.
  • Increase outreach efforts to families who are members of ethnic and racial minority groups.
  • Increase outreach efforts to male family members as well as to siblings, adult children, and spouses of persons with mental illness.
  • Provide "refresher course" training sessions to help education course teachers and support group leaders improve their skills.

  • The JOH Institute has implemented many of these recommendations.  For example, the education course was recently revised and includes updated information on medication and uses several different methods to help  participants understand the causes of mental illness and improve their coping skills.

Related Materals

  • Pickett-Schenk, S.A., Cook, J.A., & Laris, A.  (2000). Journey of Hope Program Outcomes.  Community Mental Health Journal, 36(4), 413-424.
  • To order this Final Evaluation Report or other materals related to this project, visit our Family Issues Publications page.

    For more information about the Journey of Hope program, contact Donna Mayeux, Acting Director of the JOH Institute at dmmayeux@cox.net

    For more information about NAMI's Family-to-Family Education Program, visit the NAMI homepage.

    JOH Program Evaluation Staff

    Susan Pickett, Ph.D.

    Judith A. Cook, Ph.D


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    Last updated November 19, 2008