With change in the family, it is a good time to consider support for every member in the family. There may be new uncertainties or challenges as the employment process unfolds.
Persons with mental health conditions go through a recovery process – including vocational recovery. At the same time, the other family members may be still recovering from the impact of the mental health problems of their family member. Family recovery, much like individual recovery, is a process of self-discovery, self-renewal, and transformation. Common stages for families include shock and disbelief; recognition; acceptance, coping, and then moving to advocacy.
Family recovery is often helped by good information and support particularly when in crisis and periods of loss and pain. The expertise and support of other families and empathy of hopeful professionals can promote recovery. (Farkas; Spaniol)
When family members take good care of themselves, remain calm, and maintain a sense of hope for whole family, each member can better focus on their own goals. They can better support one another. When the family’s recovery needs are met, everyone benefits, including the individual member in recovery. Focus on the family’s strengths, competencies, and healing ability can promote family recovery process. When the larger family has coping skills to deal with their own needs, anxieties and problems, it benefits everyone. (Spaniol)
Family therapy attempts to help the family grow its resources and improve family functioning. This means both the individual with mental health condition and family recovery from the crises of mental health conditions with the help of therapy.
Family education interventions, or “psychoeducation”, are practices based on research which help support partnership among consumers, families, providers and supporters. Professionals or family “peers” serve as facilitators and they try to respect the cultural context of the family. Psychoeducation program results have shown improvements for the consumer in vocational rehabilitation, coping skills, relapse reduction, reduced family burden along with many other benefits. (Dixon; Cohen) Families recognize that behavioral health systems of care may not always be the source of meeting their recovery needs so family groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness may provide the program of mutual support and education. They often teach about mental illnesses, medication, recent research, problem-solving and communication skills, coping strategies, employment and other topics. Family-to-family programs improve family functioning, empowerment, and coping that result in sustained benefits. (SAMHSA)
Family members of a person in recovery could be a parent, spouse, sibling, partner, adult child, roommate, or good friend. Partnering with professionals especially the Employment Specialists helps to keep everyone on the same page.
In addition to paying attention to their own wellness and their own personal goals, family members can participate (with permission) in the meetings, orientation, and employment planning of a vocational program. Family members can educate themselves using a variety of resources available through NAMI, including facts sheets and an archive of past content that is easily filtered by topic area.