When an individual is in the throes of struggling with substance problems, chaos becomes a regular part of life for both the individual (also known clinically as the identified patient, or "IP"), and his or her family. As mental health clinicians, we spend a great deal of time working with desperate family members in their journey to help the IP to enter treatment. The families we work with experience a confluence of emotions including sadness, guilt, hopelessness, anger, frustration, and fear. When we first meet with these families it is clear that they have exhausted many of their coping mechanisms and resources to influence the IP in the direction of change. At this point, pleading, threatening, arguing, confronting and avoiding have all been tried with limited success. Unfortunately, and in addition, family members can be struggling with their own mental health issues including anxiety, depression, substance use issues, and trauma in part due to and/or exacerbated by the stress.
Feeling alone, stigmatized, and devastated, families are left with many questions. "How did my loved one get to be like this?" "What could I have done differently?" "Why does he/she continue to hurt themselves and us so recklessly?" "Am I an enabler? "Should I just cut the person off or administer t...
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