Family-to-Family is a free, 12-week course for families, partners and friends of individuals with serious mental illness taught by more than 3,500 trained NAMI family members and caregivers of individuals living with mental illness. The course dwells on the emotional responses families have to the trauma of mental illness; many family members describe their experience in the program as life-changing. The course topics in the 12-week course are: Learning about feelings and facts: The normative stages of emotional reactions to the trauma of mental illness; NAMI’s belief systems and principles; individual goals for the family member with mental illness.
Schizophrenia, Major Depression, Mania, Schizoaffective Disorder: Diagnostic criteria; characteristic features of psychotic illnesses; clinical treatment; dealing with critical periods in mental illness; keeping a Crisis File.
Mood Disorders and Anxiety Disorders: Types and subtypes of Depression and Bipolar Disorder (formerly called manic depression); causes of mood disorders; diagnostic criteria for Panic Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder; clinical treatment; sharing stories of the attendees.
Functions of key brain areas: Research on brain abnormalities in the major mental illnesses; chemical messengers in the brain; genetic research; infectious and developmental factors involved in mental illness; the biology of recovery.
Problem-Solving Skills Workshop: How to define a problem; how to solve a problem; setting limits.
Medication Review: How medications work; basic psychopharmacology of the mood disorders, anxiety disorders and schizophrenia; medication side-effects; key treatment issues; stages of adherence to medications; early warning signs of relapse.
Inside Mental Illness: Understanding the subjective experience of coping with a brain disorder; problems in maintaining self-esteem and positive identity; gaining empathy.
Communication Skills Workshop: How illness interferes with the capacity to communicate; how to respond when the topic is loaded; talking to the person behind the symptoms of mental illness.
Self-Care: Learning about family burden: Sharing in relative groups; handling negative feelings of anger, entrapment, guilt and grief; how to balance our lives.
The Vision of Potential Recovery: Learning about key principles of rehabilitation and model programs of community support; local and other services available; a first-person account of recovery.
Advocacy: Challenging the power of stigma; learning how to change the system, and how families unite together against this disability.
Review, sharing and evaluation