Helping a Loved One

Watching a loved one suffer from a mental health disorder can leave you feeling heartbroken, helpless, and vulnerable. You may experience frustration, hopelessness, and lose faith in your own ability to help your family member, particularly if their symptoms have contributed to turmoil in your relationship. However, family involvement has been shown to be a crucial component of successful treatment, even in the presence of interpersonal distress. Your support is precious, and you can help your loved one regain health and return to their authentic self.

Bridges to Recovery offers the most advanced, empirically supported clinical treatments available, combined with holistic therapies to create a total therapeutic experience in which to guide people toward complete healing. We also have a deep appreciation for the value of family support and the integral role it can play in the larger treatment picture. By combining our strengths, we can help your loved one overcome the obstacles keeping them from moving forward and living a fulfilling life.

Bridges to Recovery Family Support

Family members are often the ones to initially contact Bridges to Recovery to seek help for their loved one, and we invite family input and participation during the treatment process. We work with you to supply the practical and emotional help needed to enhance their therapeutic process and strengthen your relationship:

  • We encourage you to speak with us about any questions or concerns, and accompany your family member to their initial tour of the facility, so you can be assured that our program is the right place for them.
  • Upon admission, the treating psychiatrist and primary therapist will consult with you regarding your loved one’s treatment history, presenting problems, current symptoms, behaviors, and any other information you feel is relevant. Your input is invaluable, and will help us gain a complete picture of what your loved one is going through, allowing us to implement a tailored treatment plan and begin the process of healing.
  • Participating in Family and Couples Therapy can be profoundly cathartic and restorative for the entire family. Many clients and their families elect to participate in family and/or couples therapy. We encourage you to take this opportunity to learn, work through conflict, and form a closer bond with the support of our caring clinicians.
  • Despite physical separation, you can be in contact with your family member throughout their stay through phone and email. We also invite you to visit on weekends during our normal visiting hours.
  • As the residential portion of treatment draws to a close, we will work hand-in-hand with you to create an aftercare plan for successful transition back home. Bridges to Recovery can refer you to any resources you may need–and we are always available to support you and your loved one.

Ways to Provide Meaningful Support

As your loved one moves through treatment, the entire family will likely experience a range of emotions and behaviors–you may find it difficult to respond in ways that allow the therapeutic work to be effective. Here are some guidelines to providing meaningful support throughout your loved one’s treatment process:

  • Resist Rescuing. Patients may experience the decision to seek residential treatment as abandonment, and react with anger toward and resentment of their family members. The desire to relieve your loved one of immediate suffering is a natural reaction. However, we urge you to not make promises of discharging them early to ameliorate the situation. Their response is normal and usually subsides quickly as they begin to feel a sense of belonging and purpose in treatment.
  • Establish Boundaries and Redirect Anger. Your family member is going through an intense emotional process to deal with deep-rooted suffering and may lash out at those closest to them. The most loving thing you can do is set and hold boundaries to protect both of you and direct them back to their treatment team, who can help them process their feelings and learn how to cope in healthy ways.
  • Let Treatment Work. The vital emotional work your loved one is doing may trigger a desire to find relief in the familiarity of self-destructive behaviors. Families may interpret this as a sign that treatment is not effective and contemplate removing their loved one from the program. In fact, this stage is a common part of the healing process, and it is imperative that your family member completes the therapeutic work they have begun so they can move toward disrupting destructive patterns of behavior, and continue to develop the internal resources to appropriately deal with overwhelming emotions and impulsive behaviors.

Don’t Take the Blame

Families often feel a sense of guilt and responsibility for their loved one’s distress. Meanwhile, the patient is uncovering their unconscious thoughts and exploring their formative experiences and interpersonal conflicts. At this time it is not uncommon for patients to react to inner turmoil by blaming their loved ones for their pain. Do not take these attacks to heart. You are not to blame for your loved one’s mental health disorder–neither are they–and accepting blame is counterproductive to the therapeutic process. In time, your loved one will form a more nuanced, accurate understanding of their distress.

You are best equipped to help your loved one if you also get help and support for yourself. Be sure to attend to your own emotional, physical, and spiritual needs and seek out support from family, friends, and caring professionals through this challenging time. We can connect you with resources for families of people living with mental health disorders, where you can find solace and guidance in the company of others who share your experience. Contact us at any time for referrals, information about our program, and to discuss what we have to offer your loved one.