Family Therapy and Coaching
Families of young adults face a very difficult task: how do you effectively “let go” of your child, helping him or her launch into a life of independence, while simultaneously building and healing family relationships, all the while making sure they are making healthy choices for themselves? This is a dilemma that Red Mountain is uniquely positioned to assist with.
Even though our students are our primary focus, we recognize that the entire family may need healing. Whether communication between student and family needs work, past events need to be processed, or codependent relationships have to be addressed, our staff of trained therapists will work with the family system to ensure that healing takes place where it is needed.
We will work with you to understand family dynamics, identify roles, and define relationships to help the family connect synergistically in a healthy and effective manner.
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.
Over the course of a student’s stay at Red Mountain, families receive weekly updates and coaching sessions, as well as telephonic family therapy (at the therapist’s discretion). During visits, which typically take place every 4-6 weeks, our clinical staff works directly with families and students to help them get “unstuck” from their traditional roles and patterns, moving into a new space of freedom, healing, communication, and wellness.
Some of the roles we help our students and families identify and move through include:
The Problem Child/ Identified Student (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 steps in and protects the identified student 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 is the family member who draws attention away from the Identified Student 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 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 Student.
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 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.
While the work accomplished in primary treatment is vital, ongoing family therapy is essential to “launching” a troubled young adult effectively. We feel that young adult transitional programs that do not address these roles and dynamics are “missing the boat.”
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. Many aftercare programs treat the families as an afterthought – they figure that, by the time a young adult reaches aftercare, all the difficult family work has already been done. While the family work done in primary treatment is vital, ongoing family therapy is essential to “launching” a troubled young adult effectively.