Co-Directors of the PCH Family Program; Louise Bale and Colleen Kelly, discuss the role of the Family Program in treatment and how through providing a welcome, safe and supportive environment for family members; PCH helps the entire family unit develop healthier patterns as well as a better understanding of what is needed for everyone involved to heal.
Louise: My name is Louise Bale and I’m a marriage and family therapist and I’m the co-director of the Family Program here at PCH.
Colleen: And I’m Colleen Kelly. I am the other co-director of the Family Program and I’m also a LMFT.
Louise: When a family member first comes into PCH, they’re immersed in their own individual therapy with an individual therapist so they might be look at some of the presenting symptoms, presenting problems, and they’ll start to look at the underlying causes of those. And then when the client is ready, when it’s indicated that they’re ready; we will start to incorporate family members into the treatment. So that might start with some family sessions and every family is assigned their own family therapist. So they’ll work closely with them. And then involvement or participation in the family weekend program which is our 3 day intensive program. And during that process or part of that process, what we try to do is take that focus off one person and look at the whole system, look at the whole family unit. What is the whole family system doing? And the family therapist might help the family members ask the questions of: how is communications happening? Is it working for everybody in this family? What do the patterns look like? What are the roles that we are playing? And is that working for everybody? And if it’s not working, how do we change it and what are some of the tools that we can use to change those dynamics so we can move into a healthier pattern or a healthier pattern of communication. And a better understanding of where everybody is at and what their needs are. And then ongoing family therapy; the family can continue to work with their family therapist with sessions here on site at PCH or sometimes family members live quite far apart so we can do some sessions by computer, via teleconferencing, via Skype for example.
Colleen: I think a lot of family members wonder why come in and do family work. Why go to family weekend. And I think one of things that’s important to know is that we now have the benefit of decades of research that shows that relationships have a profound impact on our health and well-being but not just our emotional and psychological health but also our physical health. We live longer, heal faster, and generally speaking have more resilience against physical and emotional adversity. So if we know that this is the case, that it’s a protective factor of adversity of all kinds. Doesn’t it make sense to work on those primary relationships. But I think another issue that comes up that a lot of people are not aware of is that mental health challenges and substance misuse can put a strain on our primary relationships. And family members sometimes tend to neglect their own lives and can need their own support. And so PCH really advocates that family work is a part of the treatment process. I think it can be really hard for family members to discern between help that is enabling and help that is supportive. And that can be really hard to tease out because each client and their family member’s situation is different. But I think this is where the family weekend can really come in to play because not only does the family member get a sense of their loved one’s current overall mental health picture and the work that they are doing but they also get a chance to get some really condensed information about how to communicate more effectively; especially in trying times. How do we move through conflict in a healthy way, how do we heal and repair ruptures. I think that there’s a lot of not only good information that they get but they also realize that they are not alone, that there are other family members that are struggling with similar things. I think the thing that I want them most to know is that Louise and I and the family weekend team is really invested in providing a welcome, safe, supportive environment to do this work together.
Louise: We understand that this is new territory for a lot family members. This is brand new, they come in here maybe very anxious about how their loved one is doing, what does this therapy thing look like, what are we going to be doing here today or for the weekend. And we understand, we get it, that it can be overwhelming, maybe even scary. And I think what we see very quickly is that being able to share that with the other family members and for them to be able to share and also hear from another family member “Yeah I’m really overwhelmed too” or “I’m struggling” and for them to realize that they are in it together. And we see family members from separate families support each other all of the time. Sometimes very early on in the process but we understand and we encourage them to talk about it. They can talk about it, like Colleen said, privately with us or with our staff or as a group and they often get that support from one another.
Louise Bale, MFT, LPCC, Co-Director of Family Program
Colleen Kelly, MFT, Co-Director of Family Program
The PCH Treatment Center Family Program specializes in helping families and couples who are experiencing psychological, emotional and relational problems. Learn more about the PCH Family Program, what to expect and different options available for families with these additional resources: