Real People, Real Stories
For more than 100 years, Family Guidance Center has been working with community partners to help children and adults with mental illness reach recovery and return to quality of life. Through the years, an emphasis on helping each individual understand their disease and how to most effectively manage their symptoms has remained a top priority. Our work has have impacted thousands of families, employers, and the community as a whole – creating a more healthy, productive and successful region, and helping create new understanding and awareness about how mental health is a key part of overall health in each of our lives. These are just a few of those stories, and we invite you to help spread the message with us that mental illness is a diagnosable, manageable and treatable disease. Recovery can, and does, happen.
Addiction Recovery: Susan’s Story
“Decide you want it and make today the day.” –Susan, former Addiction Treatment Services consumer*
Now maintaining almost 20 years of sobriety, Susan remembers when Family Guidance services helped save her life, her home and her family. Through the help of Family Guidance’s psychiatric services, including case management, Susan began a journey of sobriety in 1992 – ending an alcohol addiction that began when she was only 10 years old.
Susan graduated with her bachelor’s degree and completed an internship all under the Family Guidance umbrella of support. Today, as a State of Missouri employee, she often shares her story of recovery with clients. In September 2011, Susan was invited to serve as a guest workshop coordinator at an AA meeting in
“I’m so grateful people didn’t give up on me. If you’re willing, Family Guidance has the support you need to reach recovery. Decide you want it and make today the day.”
*consumer’s name has been changed
Taking a Pivotal Role in Treatment of People with Schizophrenia: Carol’s Story
“Based on this experience, my hope is that the mental health field breaks out of the box and stops categorizing individuals, and starts treating them as individuals.” –Carol Cunningham, 19-year veteran of the mental health field
Schizophrenia is one of the toughest, most misunderstood and most disruptive types of diseases found in the mental health spectrum. With a focus on preventative care toward the physical and mental symptoms associated with schizophrenia, and new strategies that encourage increased patient participation, Family Guidance Center for Behavioral Healthcare is working alongside national leaders to realign treatment toward the whole person. Simultaneously, Family Guidance is also helping show measurable treatment outcomes while reducing harmful stigmas associated with this complex disease that affects at least 2.5 million people in the U.S.
Family Guidance Center recently announced the completion of a new, evidence-based clinical pilot program that demonstrates improved functioning for people with schizophrenia. As one of 10 community behavioral health organizations to participate from across the nation, Family Guidance Center found that the use of standardized, evidenced-based tools as a consistent part of routine care helped more effectively measure their consumers’ progress in the treatment of schizophrenia.
A key element of the program is the Daily Living Activities (DLA-20) assessment, which is a functional assessment scale that helps identify how well a consumer with schizophrenia functions across 20 daily activities. At Family Guidance, consumers and mental health professionals complete the DLA-20 assessment tool together. The DLA-20 assessment is designed to help implement a more standardized, reliable tool mental health professionals can use nationwide to measure how effective a treatment is for a consumer in terms of their daily functioning. “It surprised me that it took this long to do something that made so much sense,” said Carol Cunningham, a 19-year veteran of the mental health field, as she reflected on the Advancing Standards of Care for People with Schizophrenia pilot program in which her center participated.
Carol said the program changed her view about what’s possible in the treatment for people with schizophrenia, and it has changed how her agency treats people with mental illness. Spurred by the positive experience of Family Guidance professionals in the pilot program, Carol said her agency has started using the DLA-20 (a measure of a person’s ability to perform 20 daily living activities) across the agency. At Family Guidance, the consumer and the professionals fill out the DLA-20 together.
Explaining why the agency took that across-agency step, Carol pointed to her experience working with one participant in the pilot program. She said he was initially reluctant to review his DLA-20 form with Carol, but when she started asking him a few of the questions, he started opening up. The result: he ended up taking an in-depth review of himself, becoming more open to conversation and feedback, and working on issues that he had resisted acknowledging before.
Carol said that the pilot program underscores an anti-stigma, anti-stereotype way of thinking. Instead, it encourages mental health professionals to know the people they are working with and their special characteristics. “Based on this experience,” Carol said, “My hope is that the mental health field breaks out of the box and stops categorizing individuals, and starts treating them as individuals.”