A change has taken place in the role ascribed families in the treatment of schizophrenia. Rather than being implicated etiologically, families are seen more as the natural support system in preventing relapse of schizophrenic illness after discharge from hospital. The factors predicting relapse are reviewed including expressed emotion, communication deviance and medication compliance. From these, a set of objectives for treatment have been derived and the behavioural family intervention programme of Falloon and Liberman is described. Outcome research on the efficacy of this and the psychoeducational family approaches show short term benefits in relapse prevention and symptom amelioration but that more long term follow up data are needed. Further research also needs to address the relationship between outcome, specific treatment modality, medication use and the behavioural disturbance of the patient.