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A unique model for family education
Family Education Weekend

Although the first days of April saw our most recent Family Education Weekend (or “FEW,” as we call it), CooperRiis has been providing educational programming to its residents and family members since its inception in 2003. In the fourteen years that this psychoeducational program has been offered, core principles guide its structure. Education. Support, and Shared Learning.

CooperRiis finds that educating families about mental health challenges enhances the long-term effectiveness of treatment. Additionally, studies confirm that educating families and offering support often reduces rates of relapse or re-hospitalizations by as much as 75%. That’s a pretty astonishing statistic!

Why Family Education is so Important

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) publishes a report of the scientific literature on family psychoeducation and offers several recommendations. It notes, “It has been demonstrated that programs do not reduce relapse rates if the information presented is not accompanied by skills training, ongoing guidance about management of mental illness, and emotional support for family members.” Therefore educating the entire family is key—including the active promotion of skillfulness and empathic support. Most noteworthy, all of these ingredients comprise family education at CooperRiis.

Our Unique Education Model

According to our Family Education Coordinator, Lisa Murphy, CooperRiis began offering the current educational program in the form of “weekly phone calls with the resident’s full recovery team and family members.” Remarkably, this level of support was unlike anything provided by most treatment centers. Ultimately, this approach became unsustainable because of the amount of time required for its success. Therefore, the model needed revision, and CooperRiis was up for the task. Two colleagues, Ellen Howe and Dr. Sharon Young, co-developers and compilers of the original Family Education Program (FEP) curriculum, consulted with other key staff and transformed family education from a weekly phone call to a bi-annual weekend experiential workshop.

Learning modules were developed and piloted with visiting families during Thanksgiving celebrations in 2013 at the Farm and they were a hit! Families raved about the usefulness of the materials and requested more. They wanted more “information,” more “education,” and more “time learning with their loved ones and with the CooperRiis community!” Therefore the experiential component of family education was born.

Joined together in a workshop, families soon discovered common ground and bonded. As a result, residents and family members reconnected and experienced healing and newfound understanding. “Most helpful was the experience of doing the program with my son—learning from him,” one parent shared—a common refrain of family participants. The experience of shared learning made CooperRiis’ Family Education Weekend so unique; its co-educational model allowed families to learn through and with their loved ones.

CooperRiis is proud to offer Family Education Weekend to its residents and their family members. Won’t you join us for our next Family Education Weekend? We’d love to have you!

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