“We see a family’s eyes open when they realize what their loved one is going through and that they can have an impact in their recovery.”
– Verlina Velazquez-Millings
Verlina Velazquez-Millings, Director of Programs at The GateHouse, has been in the long-term addiction recovery field for the last 20 years. She’s spent three of those years with The GateHouse, overseeing our residential program and facilitating family education within our Family Support Program.
We sat down with Verlina to get an understanding of why family support is so important to the long-term recovery of our clients.
TGH: Can you start by telling us why support for clients’ families is a central piece of The GateHouse’s recovery program?
VVM: Absolutely. Many clients have other family members at home, and they often rely on those family members for support. So, we need to bring the family into the treatment setting and teach them how to contribute to their loved one’s overall long-term recovery.
Families who get involved come into the process from various perspectives. Sometimes we find that a father or mother with a child suffering from substance abuse has very little understanding of addiction or how it feels to be an addict. We have other families who enable the behaviors that fuel a client’s addiction.
Addiction is a disease that doesn’t happen in a vacuum. People suffering from addiction are impacted by their home environment. When our clients make enough progress that they can return to life and their community, that same (potentially harmful) home dynamic is waiting for them if we don’t also work with the family to improve that environment.
When we educate the family about addiction and give them the tools to best support their loved one, long-term recovery is much more likely.
TGH: What types of tools are you providing to families? What does Family Support look like for families who go through the program?
VVM: Our Family Support Program has two components: Family Education and Family Sessions.
Family Education helps families better understand addiction, what their loved one is experiencing on a physical, emotional, and mental level, and the role they play in long-term recovery.
The education portion of the program is broken down into three modules that we teach over the course of our client’s treatment. The three modules are:
- Module #1: Family Roles & How Families Impact Addiction
- Module #2: Co-dependency & Self-care
- Module #3: Families and Recovery from Addiction
The Family Education portion of our support program is a service we only offer when our clients are in treatment in one of our Residential Extended Care residences, not those in any of our outpatient treatment centers. Family Education is meant for those clients just starting treatment and who need the highest level of support we offer.
A big incentive for our families to participate in Family Education is that the completion of all three modules is required before we give our clients in treatment a family pass. A family pass is a day pass allowing the client to leave the Residential Extended Care residence to visit with family members. To earn their pass, the client has to be in good standing and up-to-date on their treatment work.
The other component of the Family Support Program is a series of Family Sessions. Unlike the education modules, family sessions are client-facing counseling sessions where we bring our client and their family together once a month.
Each family session is client-centric, meaning the discussion is framed around the needs of the client at that time. And, sessions only take place if and when the client is ready. The goal is to get the client and the family talking through issues they have, which many times are the issues hindering the client’s recovery.
TGH: What are some examples of the discussions that take place in a family session? And what are some common issues clients and families work through?
VVM: Addiction is a challenging topic for families to discuss, so a lot of what we do centers around the encouragement of constructive communication and understanding.
Each family session is led by one of our counselors. Counselors know each client’s history and whether any childhood trauma or family issues exist, or if there’s a family history of substance abuse. So, before the initial session, our counselors understand the family’s needs. This lets them suggest topics to address.
As an example, we’ve worked with clients who’ve experienced issues with their mother and worked through underlying anger about the mother’s history of substance abuse. We may also conduct a session that allows our client to share his or her feelings about their addiction with family members for the first time.
The topics and lengths of the discussions depend on what the client needs. But they all aim to provide a safe opportunity for clients and families to find understanding. These sessions are often the first time clients have addressed these bigger issues with their family members.
Ultimately, we’re supporting everyone involved as they grow and rebuild their family relationships.
TGH: Is this level of family support unique to The GateHouse?
VVM: While other treatment centers offer some level of family support, at The GateHouse, we’re providing a higher level of care by offering treatment as well as programs that create structure and stability for each client. Our Family Support Program is one very important piece of the full approach we take to empower our clients and teach them how to be successful in early recovery.
The GateHouse offers its Family Support Program to families supporting our clients through long-term addiction recovery.
Verlina and our entire team would love to share more about how The GateHouse can help you find the addiction treatment your family member needs and support them in their next step in recovery. Reach out to us today!