The Family-to-Family course is an evidence based 12-week class designed for family members of individuals who have a serious and persistent brain disorder. The course, which is offered at no cost to participants, “significantly” improves the coping and problem-solving abilities of family members, according to a study published in Psychiatric Services, a journal published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Led by Lisa B. Dixon, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the study found that the class increases both knowledge about mental illness and “empowerment within the family, the service system and the community.” The course offers “concrete practical benefits” and demonstrates the value of free, community-based self-help programs as a “complement” to professional mental health services, the authors of the study noted.

The course is taught by two trained volunteers, with lived experience as a family member or friend of someone living with mental illness. The curriculum focuses on five major psychiatric illnesses: schizophrenia, major depression, mania, panic / anxiety disorders and obsessive compulsive disorder. The course emphasizes the clinical treatment of these illnesses and teaches skills that family members need when faced with the challenges surrounding mental illness.

Before I took the course, I felt alone and overwhelmed dealing with my daughter’s mental illness. By taking this course, I have met others who are going through the same things I am and have learned about many resources that I never knew existed.

Course Overview (Click to expand)

  • Learning about feelings and learning about facts

  • Schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder, diagnosis, critical periods

  • Depression, mania, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorders, diagnosis and causes

  • Basics about the brain

  • Problem-solving skills workshop

  • Medication review

  • What it’s like to be mentally ill: empathy workshop

  • Communications skills workshop

  • Support groups and self-care

  • Rehabilitation and potential for recovery

  • Advocacy: fighting stigma

  • Review, evaluation, certification and celebration

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