Humans are innately social beings who rely on their environment to thrive. One of the key factors to recovery is a person’s support system. Social support in general — whether from family or friends — is beneficial to mental health. It serves a protective purpose by reducing the risk of depression and anxiety. Consistent contact with people that care for and support us gives us a sense of belonging and community. With this connection to others comes security and reduced stress. Even when faced with difficult life situations, drawing on our support systems provides a valuable resource and helps us feel more capable of addressing those issues.
Family and Recovery
Many factors contribute to mental health. Current theories posit that our tendency to experience mental health disorders is based on a combination of our environment, experiences, and biology. This means that effective treatment needs to consider each of these factors carefully. When treating an individual, it helps to treat them in their context rather than as an island. The research lauding social support as a barrier against mental health conditions can be used to inform a facility’s approach to treatment. One avenue is to draw on a patient’s support system and involve the family in the treatment process.
Families often provide care for an individual struggling with their mental health, and because of this, they have intimate knowledge of their loved one’s condition. Consequently, they have become experts out of necessity. Warning signs of a crisis, symptoms indicating a downturn in mental health, things that calm the situation, and things that exacerbate it are all pieces of information that family members collect and make sense of. This information can be invaluable to a care team because having this foundation can make treatment more effective.
Families are often instrumental in encouraging their loved ones to seek help. While many people seek treatment of their own volition because they want a change, it is sometimes insight from others that can serve as the catalyst. This is especially common in cases of substance abuse and severe mental health disorders, where it is hard for an individual to recognize their need for help and acknowledge the effects their condition has on them and the people around them. A family’s support during treatment can also remind an individual of why they are pursuing this path, providing some motivation and perspective.
While these are general examples of the benefits of including families in the treatment process, research indicates concrete benefits. Individuals with family engagement in treatment tend to exhibit more compliance, including taking medication as prescribed. These individuals are also hospitalized less frequently, and when they are hospitalized, it is typically for a shorter duration. Relapses are less likely in this group, with longer gaps between episodes when they do occur.
How Lightning Step’s Patient Portal Can Help
Providing a comprehensive and high-quality treatment experience for your patients may entail involving their family support system. One easy way to start that collaborative process is to have a patient portal. Patient portals offer a direct and secure line of communication between patients and providers. If a patient consents to sharing their health information, patient portals can also keep the family in the loop. It provides a space to bring up concerns, such as an increased severity of symptoms that the family is experiencing at home. With this information, clinicians can gain insight into what happens outside of sessions and formulate a plan. Potential crisis situations can be avoided, and resources can be exchanged.
While these situations may apply more in the case of someone attending an outpatient program, those in inpatient or residential programs can also benefit from a portal. The separation that occurs when someone is attending an intensive program can be hard for families, who may have gone from providing a high level of care to their loved one to not having much contact at all. Patient portals can alleviate some of that stress by keeping families updated on treatment goals and progress.
The patient portal also allows the provider to send documents and consent forms easily back and forth, increasing the response time so that necessary steps can be taken at a faster rate.
Our families support us in many areas of life. Whether we are starting a new job, getting through a breakup, or recovering from an illness, our support system sees us through many major life events and changes. Their support gives us a sense of belonging and community and reminds us that we can achieve difficult things. This should be no different when someone is seeking treatment for their mental health or substance use disorder. While it is a vital step in the right direction, it can be accompanied by pain, confusion, apprehension, and possibly shame. Incorporating a patient’s family into their care can support their well-being and increase their chances of success. Lightning Step makes it possible for your organization to draw on family support with our patient portal. To learn how our solution can help you run your organization seamlessly, schedule a call today.