At Paradigm San Francisco, we understand that when a teen is in treatment for mental health and/or substance abuse disorders, everyone in the family is affected. This is one of the unique aspects of adolescent treatment, in that teens are at the age where they are independent to a large degree, and yet their lives are deeply interwoven and connected with their parents and family members. Because of this, the teens’ struggles often lead to tensions and struggles in the home as well and can have palpable, disruptive effects on siblings’ lives. We’ve designed a Sibling Support Services program, which is available to all families of teens here with us at Paradigm San Francisco. This program is our dedicated time to work with teens’ siblings and help to address their unique experiences, struggles, questions, regarding sibling treatment.
For siblings of teens that are struggling with mental health and/or substance abuse disorders, this time of treatment can be full of fear, anger, confusion, and frustration. Because siblings have often already experienced a considerable amount of stress prior to their siblings entering treatment, siblings can often feel fatigued at the requirement of effort and resentful that the negative behavior of their siblings seems to rule the household. At the same time, siblings can also experience tension and frustration with their parents, who are overwhelmed with worry and stress, and sometimes, distracted by the sibling. It’s important to address these types of dynamics, in order to help strengthen and rebuild the family environment at home. Not only is this important for the siblings, who deserve to be heard, addressed, and respected, but also hugely important to the teens in treatment, who will need a supportive household, following their time at Paradigm.
Siblings of teens at Paradigm San Francisco have a number of therapeutic opportunities they can participate in, including individual and group family sessions, as well as our Sibling Support Services. All of these sessions are led by our therapists, who guide families through the particular family dynamics at work, and create an environment where the siblings can discover and voice what they’re experiencing. Very often what we see is that when siblings have an intentional time to focus on their own experience and share it with their family, this in itself can help them to feel encouraged, respected, and even energized. At the same time, it’s often very helpful for parents to hear from siblings and have the chance to recognize ways they might be able to better support both children, throughout this time. Lastly, this time also proves extremely valuable for the sibling relationship, as siblings can both share openly and honestly about what their own struggles have been throughout this time and how they’ve been affected. This often helps both siblings to have more understanding and even compassion for the other, which forms the very important respect necessary, in order to rebuild a healthy, positive family environment.