Cover image of Let's Talk Employment guide
Let’s Talk Employment
A Guide for Family Members of Individuals in Mental Health Recovery


Recovery for the Whole Family


What Questions Should I Ask?

  • How can I support the rest of my family while also supporting the member in recovery?
  • Why is it important to consider recovery for the family as a whole?


What You Should Know

Since serious mental health conditions impact the whole family, recovery supports should be available to the whole family as well. One if the most important factors that helps persons in recovery to have goals and to work towards goals is the understanding that recovery is possible, especially if the person and the family choose the right supports. There are many views of recovery but here are three of the well-known definitions

  • Recovery is a way of changing one’s attitudes, values, feelings, goals, skills and roles (Anthony)
  • Recovery is an attitude, a stance, and a way of approaching the day’s challenges (Deegan)
  • Recovery is a journey of healing and change allowing a person with a mental health problem to live a meaningful life (SAMHSA). Here you will also find the components of recovery.
  • Recovery is a journey to reclaiming a meaningful life. Here you will find a description of what services should look like if they are really focused on promoting recovery.

(Farkas, M. (2007). The vision of recovery today. What it is and what it means for services. World Psychiatry, 6(2), 1-7.



You will note that recovery does not mean the same thing as cure. As the idea of recovery applies to the whole family, there are a number of supports that can be helpful. These include:

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.

Two amorphic people holding a sign that reads LearnFamily education intervention, or “psychoeducation,” is a research-based practice, which helps support partnership among consumers, families, providers, and others. Professionals or family peers serve as facilitators and try to respect the cultural context of the family. Psychoeducation programs have resulted in improvements in coping skills, relapse reduction, reduced family burden, and with many other benefits. Family interventions that improve family outcomes have a strong positive effect on the outcomes of individuals in recovery.

A reference on services for families that are evidence based: Dixon, L., McFarlane, W. R., Lefley, H., Lucksted, A., Cohen M., Falloon, I., Mueser, K., Miklowitz, D., Solomon, P., & Sondheimer, D. (2001). Evidence-based practices for services to families of people with psychiatric disabilities. Psychiatric Services, 52(7), 903-10. Abstract:

Family self-help supports can improve family functioning, empowerment and coping. This improvement can only benefit the individual member who is seeking employment. The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers its support and advocacy groups throughout the U.S. and also a training program called Family to Family. Families also can provide valuable advocacy for systems change.

Family holding a picture fram that has no painting in the center so you can see them together

Family/Community Culture: It is good to keep in mind that the culture of families and of communities can have a significant impact on how a loved one views work and views their own disability.

Several studies of supported employment (the IPS model) conducted with racial and ethnic minorities reported positive associations between family connected-ness and well-being for those with serious mental health conditions, especially African Americans and other U.S. minorities with strong family values. This connectedness also has been studied in relation to young adults and has been found to help vocational success. A study in South Carolina on supported employment confirmed that in African American adults, the quality of life is greater for those who work in regular paid (competitive) jobs and also interact often with their family members as compared to those who did not have frequent family contact. In some areas there are Peer Family Support professionals who offer education and support to other family members.

If the job seeker is a parent, there are other considerations to getting and keeping jobs. It is important that the person, who is a parent in this case, consider how working will impact family life and how being a parent will impact the work responsibilities. It would be most helpful to have someone work with the job seeker on these parenting/job issues to assist them in developing plans, finding what resources are needed, and creating emergency plans as well.


Nicholson, J., Beibel, K., Hinden, B., Henry, A; Steir, L. (2001). Critical issues for parents with mental illness and their families. Center for Mental Health Research, Dept. of Psychiatry, University of MA. Medical School, 41-43.