Families Healing Together provides transformative mental health education—interactively and online. Our strengths-based recovery methods move families past fear and confusion into new states of wholeness, wellbeing and connectedness. Flexible and fully-facilitated, the FHT approach helps families navigate the frustration that can follow a psychiatric diagnosis and the emotional distress that comes with psychosis.
Families Healing Together grew from the joint efforts of three organizations convinced of the healing power of community and dedicated to helping families recover from mental health challenges. This is the story of how we met.
When Karyn Baker joined Family Outreach and Response about 15 years ago, she had already been working in the mental health field for over a decade and realized that the mental health system did not provide support from a recovery perspective. This understanding reallly became apparent when she too became a family member. Karyn knew first hand that the key to helping families was believing recovery is possible, and hearing the wisdom from people who had themselves recovered. With donated space from The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada, she started developing support and education groups.
Family Outreach and Response Program created curricula that harnessed the stories, studies, and research around those who got well. Doctors who recovered from schizophrenia and now worked as advocates, lawyers who have recovered from psychiatric labelling and who went on fight for justice against big pharmaceuticals, poets, magicians, therapists, politicians, and people of all walks of life- all whom had recovered from extreme states of mind and psychiatric labelling- brought insight and expansion to the ideas of how families can support mental health recovery. The curriculum grew, as did the organization, and now instead of a tiny program operating out of donated office space, Karyn soon found herself directing a charity organization with a growing staff team and a highly respected international reputation. Today Family Outreach and Response, (Now directed by Gillian Gray) has helped thousands families to understand the complex web of mental health, psychiatric diagnosis, and recovery.
Krista MacKinnon was diagnosed with bipolar in her formative years, but never accepted the story or drugs the system prescribed. Instead she choose to find her own way to meaning, personal growth, and healing. Generally being a nerd-type, she found community through the power of online networks and felt that the world was like an octopus with tentacles of support coming from people all over. Friends she had never met, but who had, on a few occasions, thrown her lifelines with their words which were typed to her through blog comments, emails and cyber hugs. The power of connecting online became very integral to her unfolding life.
Upon graduating from college, Krista began searching for work. She found a job posting that said: “psychiatric survivors encouraged to apply.” The position was to support families who were struggling with mental health challenges. She had never heard the word “psychiatric survivor” before but, upon reading it, she felt understood in a completely new way. How did she not have that language before!? She sat a little taller and her life purpose started to form. She got the job, and tried to find a map, a book, a curriculum, a Something that could help her support families to understand the full human complexity of mental health distress, not just from a biomedical model, but from a whole psychosocial/spiritual/cultural/anthropological/sociological/holistic/global perspective. Eventually she found, and joined forces with Family Outreach and Response Program, and developed and delivered curriculum there for several years. It was inevitable really, that eventually she would channel her passion for curriculum development, family recovery, and online community together. She took a leap and wrote her a proposal to develop an online community for families.
At about the same time family recovery support was taking roots in Canada, a US mother took a stand to reclaim hope and healing for those affected by mental health challenges after experiencing a decade of ‘mismanaged care’ that focused more on diagnoses and deficits than on her own daughter’s wholeness and potentials.
Lisbeth Riis Cooper, and her husband Don Cooper, founded CooperRiis Healing Community, a residential recovery community in North Carolina based on recovery principles, wholeness and purpose.
Over the past eleven years, CooperRiis has helped over 750 individuals and their families find recovery through personal empowerment, healing in community, connectedness and purpose.
Lisbeth never lost sight of what it felt like to struggle alone to find support for her family member, and family recovery was part of CooperRiis Healing Community from day one.
In 2011, having read a study that relapses could be reduced by up to 75%*, improve negative symptoms and improve family relationships, Lisbeth spearheaded a move towards greater family recovery education that extended beyond the walls of Cooper Riis.
Partnering with the Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care, the United States’ first national community foundation dedicated solely to transforming mental health care and helping individuals and families to thrive, Lisbeth began to spread the word of Family Recovery across the USA and beyond.
It didn’t take long for us to decide to be partners.
With clearly shared values, missions, and dreams, we three partners began to build what you see growing here now: A dynamic, supportive online community of families healing together – exploring, sharing, listening, feeling, letting go, reclaiming hope, setting boundaries, and ultimately demonstrating the power of community to heal hearts and minds.