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In circumstances involving trauma, behavioral issues, substance abuse and / or failure to launch, each family member will take on some combination of roles, often without knowing it. These roles are frequently fluid but sometimes solidify and seem intractable. Part of our job is to help each family member recognize their roles and make conscious choices to change them, becoming more whole in the process.

Family Therapy includes: 

  • Weekly updates and coaching sessions
  • Family therapy sessions via phone calls
  • Family visits every 4-6 weeks

Some of the roles we help our students and families identify and move through include:

The Problem Child/ Identified Patient (IP) – This person is the center of the family, and has been unconsciously selected to act out the family’s inner conflicts as a diversion. The “world” revolves around this person, and they become the center of attention. As this role is defined, the others unconsciously take on complementary roles to complete the balance after the problem has been introduced.

The Enabler

The Enabler steps in and protects the identified patient from the consequences of his or her behavior. The motivation for this action may not be just to protect the IP, but to prevent embarrassment, reduce anxiety, avoid conflict, and maintain some control over a difficult situation. The Enabler may try to clean up the messes caused by the IP and make excuses for him or her, thus minimizing the consequences of dysfunctional behavior.

The Hero

The Hero is the family member who draws attention away from the Identified Patient by excelling and generally being “too good to be true.” The Hero harbors a hope that somehow his or her behavior will help the IP get well. Additionally, the Hero’s performance-based behavior helps to block emotional pain and disappointment.

The Scapegoat

The Scapegoat creates other problems and concerns to deflect attention away from the real issue. This can be accomplished through misbehavior, bad grades, or substance abuse. Often, the Scapegoat is very successful at distracting the family and others from the Identified Patient.

The Lost Child

The Lost Child appears to be ignoring the problem completely. If there is a fight, with yelling and screaming, the Lost Child will often be absent. He or she is typically perceived as the “good” child because he or she spends so much time alone with books or involved in isolated activities. While the Lost Child will ultimately be unsuccessful at drawing attention away from the family issues, he or she will avoid personal stress.

The Mascot

The Mascot uses humor as a means to escape from the pain of the problems in the family. He or she will often act out by “clowning around,” cracking jokes, or making light of serious situations. While the Mascot can certainly help lighten up a desperate situation, the real intent is to ease tension, keep the peace, and serve as a distraction.

Not all families will fill all of these roles, but one or more of them will tend to have emerged by the time a student reaches our facility. That is why we have found it is a mistake to treat the families as an afterthought, believing that, by the time a young adult reaches aftercare, all the difficult family work has already been done.

We also help students and family members to make amends and heal from past events that have caused pain and resentment. We will help you and your family to create healthier roles and more satisfying dynamics, all while helping the student to develop healthy adult relationships with each family member.

Again, not all families will fill all of these roles, but one or more of them will tend to have developed by the time a student reaches our facility. While the family work done in primary treatment is vital, ongoing family therapy is essential to “launching” a troubled young adult effectively.