Tag Archive: families

  1. Helping Families Navigate Educational Services

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    Helping Families Navigate Educational Services

    When it comes to accessing educational services for their student, most families have no idea what services are available. Many schools are not very forthcoming about what they have to offer, either. While some school districts are helpful and informative about the process to receive educational services, most parents find navigating this process completely foreign and overwhelming. As a professional working with adolescents, you can provide much-needed information and support to these families.

    When Knowledge Truly Is Power

    Some kids who come into treatment did not previously have any problems in school, while for others, struggling in school may have been one of the reasons they turned to drugs or alcohol. Either way, chances are that many of these families did not have a good working knowledge of how to best access educational services for their child.

    For programs that are supposed to help students with learning disabilities, they can be shockingly complicated to access. Teachers, schools, and districts are often overwhelmed with requests for services and exceptionally short on resources. Parents typically have no idea that services are available.

    Sometimes, teachers simply do not do the simple math and put two and two together and arrive at the answer that with a certain resource, a particular student could go from struggling to excelling. Also, there is sometimes information that parents have at home regarding the student’s functioning that the school does not have; the school may not be aware that the student has a disability, for example. Knowledge truly is power.

    The importance of Being a Third-Party Resource

    This is where you, as a mental healthcare worker, can be an invaluable resource. You have access to knowledge about the student’s abilities and limitations, how they function at home and school, and much more. When you add some knowledge about accessing educational services in your area, you can become an important link between home and school to help the student access the services they need.

    How Do I Know How to Help?

    There is plenty of information available online about accessing services, and there are also webinars, seminars, and training that can educate you about the basics as well. You do not need to become a legal scholar or a paid advocate to be helpful; any knowledge of the system will be helpful to your clients and their families.

    For example, it is important to know the difference between an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and a 504 Plan. The IEP is a legal, binding document based on a determined disability or need and requires a team involving parents, teachers, and school staff members. Support services are listed with requirements to be met by the school or the district and annual goals made for the student’s academic growth. This is ideal for a student with a mental health diagnosis or learning disability.

    In contrast, a 504 plan is not legally binding but is rather a document that makes recommendations to teachers for the academic support of a student. A 504 plan might be helpful for a student who is returning from treatment and trying to catch up, for example.

    Offering Support to Families Through Information

    There are multiple ways that you can support your client and their families in navigating educational services. The most helpful is through information. By learning the basics of navigating the educational support system and then learning which services are available at their school and in their district, you can help families know what to ask for when it comes to getting help for their student.

    You do not need to be an expert or necessarily diagnose a specific disability to make recommendations for the types of services that could help your client. For example, if your client expresses to you that math is very stressful for them, but you see that they have previously managed good grades in math, perhaps all they need is extra time on tests and assignments. As a third party, your recommendations mean a lot in this process.

    Supporting Families in Person

    Some people enjoy supporting families in this process so much that they become paid advocates and immerse themselves in IEP law. That is not necessary, however, as anyone can be invited to an IEP meeting to support a family or student. When the IEP invitation is sent to the parents and the student, simply have them add you. You may attend meetings with them and speak as to what you know about the student to help determine services (maintaining client confidentiality, of course.) Sometimes, these meetings need someone to say a few positive things about the student, too. Either way, your support is valuable, whether simply by offering knowledge or by showing up in person.

    Navigating educational services to get academic support for students can be overwhelming for families. As a third party, you have the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge to share with all of your clients and offer support in this process. Whether you choose to simply pass along this knowledge or take the extra time to show up and offer support in person, you can be an invaluable part of your client’s academic success. At Sustain Recovery, our primary focus is helping adolescents put their lives back on track. This includes finding a balance with educational goals, which may require academic support to maintain. Our extended residential program offers students three hours per day, five days per week, of intensive studies with individual attention due to our very small class size. We tailor our educational approach to each individual’s needs. Contact Sustain today at (949) 407-9052 to find out if our program is right for your client.

  2. How Gratitude Can Heal Within Families

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    family having lunch

    Substance abuse and mental health issues impact not only the individual person, but they impact the entire family. When your adolescent is beginning to heal, it is important for your family to heal as well. Gratitude is both a quality and a state of mind that can help heal families impacted by adolescents with behaviors related to addiction and mental health issues. When everyone works together to improve upon reflecting on the things they are grateful for as well as expressing gratitude to others, the healing process is enhanced, and the quality of life improves for everyone involved.

    Gratitude Validates and Strengthens Family Bonds

    One of the most obvious ways to express gratitude is to notice and genuinely thank someone for qualities they have, something they have done, or something they have given to you. Outward expression validates the family member and helps them to feel appreciated and loved. When someone feels appreciated for who they are or something they have done for someone, they are increasingly likely to show positivity and kindness to others.

    For the person who expresses gratitude, there is also increased satisfaction and happiness. They, too, are more likely to express feelings of thankfulness again. Additionally, when people are happy, they are more likely to treat others kindly in general. By validating and showing appreciation to one another, goodwill is increased between family members, and family bonds are strengthened.

    Creating Opportunities to Show Gratitude

    When a family is in crisis, it can be difficult to find things to be thankful for. Furthermore, developing habits of gratitude can be difficult when there is so much stress within the family. In primary school, teachers teach children to give each other “warm fuzzies.” They will use cotton balls or pom-poms and place one in a jar each time they notice someone expressing kindness or gratitude toward one another as a visual representation of their words and actions.

    While this exact concept may not work with adolescents, here are some other ideas for modeling and implementing gratitude within the home:

    • Acknowledge and validate efforts made to improve, such as communication, cooperation, good attitudes, and more
    • Remember to say “please” and “thank you” for simple daily gestures, chores completed, etc.
    • Use an erasable marker on a whiteboard or mirror to write genuine compliments for each other
    • Write sincere notes and leave them where they will be found
    • At family meals, have each member say one thing they are grateful for
    • When emotions begin to escalate, take a deep breath, count backward, and find something to compliment or thank the other person for to diffuse the tension
    • As a part of nightly routines, verbally express something you are thankful for to one another
    • Get involved in mental health and addiction recovery programs or other service activities as a family to display gratitude

    Gratitude Journals Family Challenge

    Within therapy and treatment, gratitude journals are a common assignment that is given. Reflecting and noting what we are grateful for helps to improve our mood, outlook, and mindset. Focusing on what we have on a daily basis is a great way to heal personally.

    Taking the challenge as a family to institute a habit of journaling daily can help to increase positivity and good feelings within the home. Initially, you can make it a challenge for which there is a family reward after a week, a month, or more. Making it specific and measurable, such as each of you writing down three to five things each day, will help build a habit that can last long after the challenge is completed.

    Compare and Contrast Your Present and Past

    One of the ways that gratitude heals is to be able to compare and contrast where you are with where you have come from. When negative family memories come up, family members can reflect on and contrast where everyone was mentally and emotionally during those difficult or traumatic times and how much they have learned from those experiences. This growth and progress can also increase harmony within the home. Being grateful for every step of recovery as a family can also create a sense of unity. Acknowledging this growth as a family helps everyone heal together.

    Personal Reflection, Outward Expression

    By consciously choosing to reflect each day on the things that you are thankful for, you are more likely to express gratitude outwardly. When even one person in your home makes this change, it can shift the mood in the entire family. Expressions of anger can eventually be replaced with expressions of kindness and gratitude. Creating a more positive environment enhances better communication and ultimately can strengthen family relationships.

    Healing from addiction and mental health as a family can be enhanced by adding more gratitude into your daily lives. As you find more opportunities to demonstrate kindness and gratitude within the home, you can achieve improved harmony, communication, and growth together. Adolescents do not necessarily express gratitude naturally, so parents and family members can model what it looks like to be kind and grateful. Sustain Recovery involves the family in the healing process. Our extended residential care helps adolescents transition back into the family during treatment to prepare them for life afterward. Our staff understand that your child is not defined by substance abuse or mental health issues; they are symptoms of and coping mechanisms for the inner pain that they are experiencing. We help them address issues and heal so they have healthier coping mechanisms and increased self-worth. Call us at (949) 407-9052 to find out if our Irvine, California program is right for your family. 

  3. The Impact of Resentment in Addiction and Families

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    Resentment is an emotion most people identify as one that is negative with a lasting impact. It is significant for individuals in recovery from addiction because it can play on the mind and soul of a person who is not able or willing to let go. Resentments build from perceived wrongs or feelings of anger, disappointment and sadness that will not go away. It is possible to learn the impact to repair and restore positive feelings after resentment.

    Resentment in Addiction

    Many people with addiction feel resentment towards an individual. Persistent negative feelings can make a person use drugs or alcohol to cope or escape. Feeling better is only temporary. When a person self-medicates, addiction to drugs or alcohol can quickly take charge. Letting go can feel almost impossible. Continually seeking to cover up emotions with drugs can only lead to further problems.

    Resentment in Recovery

    Quitting drugs or alcohol is not easy no matter who the person is or how long things have been going on. The feelings of resentment can return and even new resentments may open up. The difference is for an individual with resentment that dealing with it is key to staying away from drugs or alcohol. Recovery should feel good but resentment can put up roadblocks in recovery if not dealt with effectively.

    Resentment in Family

    Addiction can cause feelings of resentment to build within a family structure. Families of people with addiction may feel resentment toward the person with addiction for causing the people to have so many bad experiences and emotions it can feel difficult to get free. People with addiction in recovery may have resentments towards family members or feel they individuals don’t trust them anymore. The difficult thing is to work through it as a family and have patience while it gets sorted out over a period of time.

    Overcoming Resentment

    Resentments are feelings that can become addictive and toxic over time. In order to overcome them, it helps to write down the feelings as they arise. Finding peace with not being able to change the past can help when learning that a person cannot control the actions of others. Resentments serve no purpose but to hurt an individual and hold that person back. The constant interference and interruption from resentments can escalate creating further damage to one’s emotional health as well as relationships.

    Counseling and therapeutic support can be helpful. Alcoholics Anonymous or other similar programs are helpful in overcoming issues that arise. Negative feelings feed off one another so can build over time to the point an individual may hurt oneself or others by turning back to toxic behaviors or towards addiction again as a means of coping. With the right support, help and healing is possible over time.

    Sustain Recovery provides a unique approach to adolescent care. Learn more about our programs and how we create long term solutions to adolescent recovery from addiction. Give us a call to get started.

  4. Steps to Protect Emotional Health Against Family Dysfunction

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    dysfunction-families-addictionGrowing up around alcoholism can create dysfunction in the way a person behaves and responds to the world. Coping it with in an emotionally healthy way is important to keeping safe boundaries. Learn some of the steps to protect emotional health.

    Emotional Health

    Emotional health is a way of doing things that helps individuals practice good self care. Being raised in a dysfunctional family can teach people from an early age to ignore personal needs and focus on the individual with greater needs at one’s own expense. Emotional dysfunction can be created within a family system that does not support positive personal growth and development.

    Healthy Families

    At least one parent will be in charge in any given household that is functioning in a healthy way and the children will be subordinate to the adult. The adults provide structure, guidance, protection and support for the younger children who do not have the maturity to do so themselves. Survival may be possible but to thrive, adults must be present in a good, healthy manner to provide proper support and care.

    Dysfunctional Families

    In homes where alcoholism or addiction are present, the family structure is broken. Parents who have addiction are not able to care for children and do not provide guidance and structure. Emotional roles go to kids who care for the adults. Denial of addiction and its ramifications run down to the very roots of the family structure and kids grow up learning to understand roles differently in these homes as compared to healthy family situations. Children have to become highly aware of tending to the needs of others and may ultimately fail to get what is needed to become a healthy, vibrant adult who tends to his or her own needs and can be in healthy relationship with others.

    3 Steps for Emotional Health

    Learning to build emotional health takes effort and time. The most important things to remember are the following:

    Identify the role

    It is best to identify the role a person has learned within the family. Figure out what the responsibility is, who is responsible for it and who is being taken care of in the home. The questions will help build understanding of the current situation and determine where to go from there.

    Examine consequences

    The consequences of taking on responsibilities that are misappropriated can have long lasting ramifications. If a child takes on adult responsibility, it can feel ‘normal,’ even if it is not. Think about the ways things were at home and compare to what is typical for a child of that age and whether it was meant to build skills or necessary for survival.

    Adapt and change beliefs or behaviors

    Acting based on who a person is takes time and diligence. This is the hardest part of being emotionally health. Think about whether it is one’s job to do the things given in the home. It may be obvious or less so but over time it will become apparent what feels right and what does not. Learning to adapt and change beliefs or patterns that are not healthy is the key to moving towards better emotional health.

    Resilience takes time for those who grew up with addiction or dysfunction in the home. Learning to say no to what is not one’s responsibility takes the pressure off and is important to building emotional health and wellness.

    Sustain Recovery provides support for young people needing time to recover from addiction. Gender Separate Extended Care treatment is provided for clients completing a primary treatment program or those needing a longer-term solution. Minimum length of stay is 90 days, sometimes longer depending on the individual’s needs. Call us to find out how we can help you or a loved one.


I first met Sayeh in November of 2013 just after my 15 year old daughter had been admitted to a residential treatment program. As part of the program I was required to attend 2-3 AlAnon meetings a week. Sayeh attended the same AlAnon meetings as well as Alumni events as I. It soon became apparent to me that Sayeh had a heart for recovery, program, and God. When I was encouraged to get a sponsor I didn’t hesitate. Dependable, respectful, kind and generous of spirit, she exudes an inner peace that I hope to achieve with her loving guidance, as I work my own program. She is patient, & full of wisdom that she is always happy to share with her sponsees and fellow parents. I am so grateful our journeys brought us together.

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