7 Simple Ways Family Calls Are Key To Success
Weekly Family Phone Calls
Triple Divide Lodge believes that keeping families connected is very important. That’s why our clients are encouraged to call home, even in their first week. We don’t practice an initial “blackout” period with them.
Typically our residents call home the first week upon arrival to the program, and then can call on a weekly basis. We have always offered weekly phone or video calls with families, recognizing the importance of healthy connection.
Consistent written communication is also encouraged. We check mail and packages for contraband but do not otherwise vet mail sent or received between program participants and their loved ones. While we advocate for therapeutic intention in written letters, we always seek to respect personal privacy.
We encourage weekly communication for a variety of reasons:
- For residents to feel heard
- So that families and residents can voice their concerns
- To empower the family to set new boundaries
- To build healthy communication patterns
- For better evaluation of treatment progress
- To encourage transparency
- To strengthen families’ commitment to helping their teens overcome these challenges
To feel heard
We believe that hearing one another–not necessarily agreeing–is vital to growth. When individuals feel heard it provides validation and initiates rapport. We avoid entering into power struggles by trying to convince clients that their perception isn’t accurate.
We can validate others’ thoughts and feelings without having to agree with them. After all, everyone involved in this process is on the same team. We want residents to know that it is not our intention to be an instrument of their family but rather an advocate for their recovery. For this to work, adolescents and families need to understand that old dynamics don’t support new goals.
In programs with blackout periods, what can occur is clients hold on – waiting for a chance to implement their old tools. We prefer to face challenges head-on and get this out of the way. Then, we can quickly move past this stage and initiate the process of change.
To hear concerns
These calls allow the families to, maybe once again, express their concerns and explain why this decision was made. How residents react to this can give our therapists insight into the individual’s perspective and overall family dynamics while clarifying that everyone has heard the same message.
To empower families
Prior to treatment, our program participants have held an exaggerated degree of power and influence within the family. With proper coaching, we help families to begin practicing new boundaries, sometimes recognizing how this is a struggle for them. We work with parents before their initial call to empower them to communicate their boundaries and expectations.
To build healthy communication
Unchecked interpersonal or family dynamics are ideal conditions for emotionally manipulative communication. We teach residents and families healthy communication skills throughout our program. Alongside individual therapy sessions, these skills foster interpersonal respect and greater self-awareness.
To evaluate the treatment progress
Clients will pass through phases of change during the course of treatment. Many of our residents have learned that a degree of superficial compliance can get them what they want. At Triple Divide, we want long-lasting change. This requires meaningful, authentic engagement in their therapeutic treatment plans.
Some residents accommodate staff expectations but continue to challenge parents on phone calls. Eventually, they show consistency in behavior and communication–showing we are on the right track. By looking at individuals’ behavior in different relationship dynamics, we can get a better idea of their progress.
To encourage transparency
Often, our clients’ struggles have created dynamics of compartmentalization or secrecy within the family. We want families to understand what is happening in their youth’s daily life. Families communicate with us directly as well, furthering mutual understanding and creating a system of trust, consistency, and predictability. These traits support recovery and lead to long-lasting change.
To strengthen commitment
Other programs implement long “blackout” periods, distancing residents from families through minimizing and controlling communication. When the client finally gets a call, it is often packed with shrewd pleas for family members to recognize the error of sending them away, or overstatements of their newfound resolve for change. Many states are now implementing mandates requiring private communication between families and residents, but we have always followed this practice.
These exclusionary or isolative practices don’t align with our relationship-based therapy approaches. At TDL, we have always allowed clients to speak to their families privately. Our philosophy is that strong, supportive relationships are key to long-term recovery and relationship repair.
Patrick Hawkins is a Licensed Addictions Counselor. Since 1995 he has been dedicated to working with adolescents and young adults. He began working in this type of model in 1996 and has become a nationally trusted name utilizing the outdoors as a part of substance abuse treatment. He has led over 50 expeditions, accumulated over 1,100 days in the backcountry treating clients, and helped hundreds of young men and their families work toward recovery. Patrick helped teens with substance use disorders during his time as the Clinical Director of a wilderness therapy program for young men with drug and alcohol addictions. An expert in the field of experiential therapy, Patrick has led hundreds of clients on wilderness expeditions and supported their sobriety. Contact him at (406) 296-5776