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The Importance of Family Programmes for Adolescent Rehabilitation

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Addiction and problem behaviour is a family disease that puts pressure on everyone involved. Those that have been through addiction will know that recovery from its devastating effects is a process not only for an addict but for their whole family. Family programmes are not only to ensure the addict has support from their loved ones but to help the whole family to recover.

Addiction causes families to stress to breaking point and family members often experience a range of destructive emotions, which affect their mental health, their behaviour and their quality of life.

Yes We Can Youth Clinics (YWCC) is a renowned treatment centre, located on the outskirts of Hilvarenbeek, Netherlands, for young people suffering from complex behavioural disorders and/or addictions. Their family programme aims to make parents and carers more capable of dealing with the issues that come with addiction and problem behaviour and provide them with the tools they need to deal with the situation and their child better.

Jan Willem Poot, Founder of YWCC believes teens and adolescents specifically need this support even more so: ‘They need to feel connected to their parents and carers so they feel safe and supported in their home environment,’ he says. However, he stresses that it’s not just the behaviour of the addict that needs to change, it’s the behaviour of everyone involved: ‘When the fellow (YWCC prefer the word fellow to patient) leaves the clinic, treatment will have taught him/her to completely change their ways and they will have a different mind-set. If they return to a family system where everything is still the same, the chance of relapsing is much higher.’

Addicted families must realise that there’s a big difference between helping and enabling and families must stay strong to ensure they are doing the right thing by their addicted loved one. It is very common for families to think they are helping the addict when they’re actually making things worse. Family programmes provide parents insights into their issue-enabling family patterns and their own share in it. It can also help if the rehabilitation centre run transport services for adolescents.

At YWCC, the family programme begins during the intake where personal goals are set for the parents and carers. After three weeks, parents speak to counsellors once over Skype and then halfway through the programme at five weeks, family members are requested to attend a five-day family programme. The programme is designed to motivate parents and carers to take responsibility for their changed role and to commit to a permanent recovery programme for both themselves and the fellow.

Family patterns that may produce a relapse are examined, in order to support the fellow’s newly acquired behaviour. Counsellors recognise these patterns and help to restore and balance family relations.

Bram entered YWCC with marijuana addiction and behavioural issues, his mother Henriette doubted whether treatment would work but after completing the 10-week programme, she says they have become a family again and feels confident about the future.

‘Our son has learned a lot, but we, as parents, have also changed by talking to the clinic’s counsellors. We had to change as well as him in order to improve the situation at home. We were heard and understood and we felt that we were not alone with our problems. At difficult moments, we apply what we’ve learned in practice and find it works.’

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