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When you have a loved one struggling with a severe mental health disorder, you may feel helpless and overwhelmed, and you may even find yourself grappling with grief, because this isn’t how you thought your lives would be. However, stepping into the world of residential treatment is the start of a pivotal chapter, in which all of those feelings have the power to change. At this turning point, your unconditional support can profoundly impact your loved one’s journey – converging with our clinical excellence to pave the path toward healing.

To see how those on the sidelines can support a loved one in residential mental health treatment, read on…

  1. Present it as an opportunity, not a punishment. Residential treatment is an opportunity for people to learn how to manage their illness and achieve their highest level of independence. It can be an extremely vulnerable space, but it’s not a consequence or a deprivation. It’s a place to learn, grow and thrive, where loved ones have unlimited potential to work toward positive change. And it’s this mindset that can make all the difference.
  1. Educate yourself. When you have a loved one with a mental illness, you know the nature of their condition and the treatment they’ve had, but do you how to be a positive influence throughout the process? To learn that piece of the puzzle, our own Laura Mueller, Director of Admissions, recommends reading “I Am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help!” Written by Dr. Xavier Amador, this book outlines the LEAP method – listen, empathize, agree and partner – and is a great resource for anyone encouraging a loved one to get help. Bonus: The National Alliance on Mental Illness also has a variety of guides, blog posts and support groups, with lots of resources for family members and caregivers.
  1. Embrace the role change. Chances are, you’ve shouldered the responsibility of caring for your loved one, and you’ve had to be hypervigilant – in control of everything. However, as they transition to residential treatment, that dynamic shifts. You get to pass those responsibilities to the clinical experts at Rose Hill and become a parent again, instead of a treatment provider. You get to offer empathy and encouragement and work on mending your relationship – engaging in conversations that focus on their feelings, experiences and aspirations beyond treatment. Here are a few tips to help you navigate this change:
  • Encourage your loved one’s independence by respecting their decisions, allowing them to make choices regarding their treatment (within the guidelines set by the facility) and empowering them to take ownership of their recovery.
  • Show interest in what your loved one is learning, but don’t expect a recount of each day. Mental health treatment is hard, and your loved one may need space to process new insights and skills independently or with peers.
  • Instead of asking questions like, “Did you shower today?” or “Have you taken your medicine?” ask “How was the farm today?” or “Are there any new animals?”
  • Know that your loved one’s treatment team will stay in touch and keep you informed (at least weekly), but you are always able to contact them with clinical questions.
  • Until you feel comfortable with these conversations, we’ve got you covered. Read through NAMI’s tips for talking to a person with mental illness.
  1. Be patient and trust the process. When a person enters residential treatment, they’re taking a courageous step toward healing. However, the road to recovery can be long and arduous, and your support can make a significant difference in their progress. If at any point you or your loved one feel discouraged, please remember that treatment takes time. Your loved one is facing a lot of uncertainty, in a brand-new environment, and nothing will happen overnight. In time, they’ll adapt to the program. Prescribed medications will take effect. And they will move along this journey at their pace.
  1. Be their cheerleader. Your loved one may experience a range of emotions during treatment – from hope to frustration or even setbacks – and that’s normal. However, positivity and encouragement can significantly impact their journey. Remind them of their resilience, applaud their progress and celebrate even the smallest victories. Accept where they are and remember that one bad day does not equal a bad treatment experience.
  1. Keep in touch. Send cards or care packages, call, or come visit. Our residents have access to phones 24/7 and visitors are always welcome (just coordinate a visit with your case manager). After residents have been at Rose Hill for a period, they’ll also have opportunities to leave campus for a day or even a weekend, which is a great way to reconnect with your loved one in a familiar space.
  1. Take care of yourself. Supporting a loved one in residential treatment can be emotionally taxing, so it’s crucial to prioritize your well-being, too. Engage in self-care activities, seek support from friends or professionals if needed, and set healthy boundaries to ensure you’re providing support without neglecting your own needs. Also, keep in mind that our residents appreciate it when their loved ones work on themselves. It normalizes being in a vulnerable position, and they see they aren’t the only ones trying to make a change.

Perhaps the most important thing to know is that when your loved one enters residential treatment at Rose Hill Center, we’ve got them. You can rest assured. As one of the nation’s leading mental health facilities, we have experts our residents can talk to 24/7 – clinicians who will treat them as a someone who needs to be comforted and heard – and we will do everything in our power to help them cultivate lifelong well-being.

To learn more, explore loved ones’ frequently asked questions.