In both its programming and its marketing, Massachusetts-based AdCare Hospital communicates that family members can receive much-needed help even when their loved one is not ready to enter treatment. A weekly family support group on Thursdays is open to anyone with a loved one in active use or recovery, and usually around 15 to 20 individuals in the community attend the groups, says Jessica Noto, a primary counselor with AdCare.
This effort, not tied to the services to current patients at the addiction treatment facility, raises the organization's profile while providing what has proven to be a valued community service. “We have a core group that has been coming to these sessions for 10 to 12 years,” says Noto. “Other people trickle in. They tend to use it more when their family member is struggling.”
Noto adds that the family support group is structured differently from an Al-Anon meeting, which some participants have tried in the past.
Treatment director Susan Hillis says AdCare seeks to engage families at multiple levels, including with its inpatient family program and with educational sessions linked to its outpatient care. Its regional advertising embraces concepts around the family disease of addiction, often voiced directly by a person portraying a family member.
“We want to get the message out there about this disease, and that people don't have to be hitting bottom,” says Hillis.
Family engagement always presents a challenge, says Hillis, particularly because of pervasive stigma. “We want to highlight the fact that family members can be getting education even when their loved one is not ready,” she says. “They think that until their loved one gets help there is not help for them. But in fact, this might help someone get into treatment.”