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Family Peer Support – One Family’s Story

Beth Hess - Monday, April 09, 2018

Previously we shared the story of a twelve-year old boy with intensive mental health needs and how he and his family were helped through MCF’s Family Peer Support program. This month we are profiling a family that received family peer support assistance from a staff member of MCF’s substance use team.

A mother contacted a local MCF Family Peer Support Specialist about her nineteen-year old daughter who had bipolar disorder and was abusing heroin. The Family Peer Support Specialist, having herself struggled with the difficulties of having a child with a substance use problem, shared her own experiences. She worked with the mom to help her understand the disease of addiction and to improve her communication with her daughter, in the hopes of convincing the young woman to enter into treatment. Eventually, the daughter agreed to try treatment, and her Family Peer Support Specialist helped the family to research and understand the various treatment options.

As is often the case after a child first goes into residential treatment, this family experienced both relief that their daughter was safe and concern about a multitude of issues: Did they select the appropriate treatment program? How would their daughter respond to the structure of a residential treatment center? How would she interact with the other patients? What about the mental and physical effects of withdrawal? All of these issues contributed to their daughter going through multiple short-term stays in multiple residential treatment facilities and recovery houses.

Throughout this tumultuous time for the family, her MCF Family Peer Support Specialist offered support to the mom, and encouraged her to set boundaries. She helped her to understand that she had little control over how her daughter responded in a residential treatment setting and how she could encourage her daughter to choose recovery supports. The staff member also helped the mother focus on her own self-care, as the mother had reported feeling depressed. With her Family Peer Support Specialist’s help, the mother has addressed her own mental health issues, learned to be supportive and accepting of her daughter’s recovery choices, and begun to celebrate the small successes.

While the young woman is still very early in her recovery, she has two jobs, recently started a Vivitrol program, and has maintained contact with her mother. As MCF continues to support this family, the mother has been able to gain strength by sharing her story and experience in a public forum to help others.

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