Q&A With Our Primary Therapist – Lystra Lewis

Q: What makes the Family Program at Destination Hope so successful?

A: I believe our family program at Destination Hope finds its success in the clinical approaches used to facilitate the weekend. In the information age, many families come to us informed and/or having participated in family programs at other facilities. However, our intentional interweaving of the educational component of the program with attendees’ emotional experiences is highly effective and produces a unique experience.

Also, our clinical team at Destination Hope really works very closely together. This collaboration allows me to tailor each program to meet the unique needs of families within the general program framework.

Q: Who can attend the Family Programs at Destination Hope?

A: Family members 18 and over are welcome to attend, however, your loved one’s Primary Therapist will work with you to determine if the weekend would be a good fit for you and your family.

Q: In what ways can a good Family Program help create new dynamics within the family structure?

A: A good family program can make the difference not only in your loved one’s recovery, but the entire family system. I believe a good family program with ongoing support can play three important roles in changing the dynamics of the family structure:

  1. Addiction and unaddressed mental health robs family members of their ability to truly listen to each other. The family weekend serves as a communication circuit reboot for families to open-up lines of communication.
  2. Recovery from addiction and unaddressed mental health require families to have difficult conversations. I believe true recovery is not possible without it. The family program not only creates a space for, but models how families can have those difficult conversations. Iremember one mom saying to me several years afterwards, “Lystra, do you know we still use what you taught us whenever we’re finding it hard to talk?”  Now that really warmed my heart.
  3. Addiction and unaddressed mental health negatively impacts all members of the family. One of my greatest joys is witnessing the empathy that emanates in the room as family members realize they are not alone, and that all must embark on this healing journey together. This recognition creates so much space for healing and recovery – for each to heal individually and the family to heal collectively.

Q: What are the best ways for families to support their loved one when they’re in a behavioral health program like the one offered at Destination Hope?

A: Families can best support their loved ones by doing their own work. Addiction and unaddressed mental health impacts everyone in the family system without exception. Addiction is a family disease. Hence, the entire family, not just the client, must actively engage in the healing process.

Q: How can the Family Program help rebuild trust between the family and their loved one?

A: Trust is rebuilt over time as clients and their loved ones do their individual work, have honest and difficult conversations, and take accountability. I believe the family program creates a safe space for clients and families to connect from a place of authenticity and vulnerability-  key ingredients for trust to germinate again.

Q: What has been the most popular Family Program and what exciting plans do you have coming up?

A: Families and their loved ones really resonate with the unique way codependency is taught. It really challenges popular myths about codependency and forces individuals to reconceptualized not only their views on the topic but how the family system experiences codependency.

We are working on engaging families virtually and biannual workshops. So, stay tuned!

Q: Are there support groups for families that you recommend while their loved one is in treatment?

A: There so many resources available to help families recover. Some of the support groups families can attend are Al-Alon, Nar-non, Families in Action, CoDa and NAMI. You can google any of these support groups online and there is a wealth of information available and a loving community to support you on your journey. You are not alone!

Q: There are so many families that you’ve helped. Do you hear from them and see how your work in the Family Program has helped them in their recovery journey?

A: Absolutely! Just recently I heard from one young woman that simply warmed my heart. When I met this client, she was estranged from her family and had not spoken with her father for several years. She participated in the family program with her partner, but I clearly recall her anxiety and trepidation. She it made clear to me her choice to participate was based primarily on her therapist’s recommendation, with whom she formed a strong therapeutic bond. This young woman now praises her experience during the family program as the source for the close relationship she now shares with her father and other members of her family. Not only have they rebuilt their broken relationship, she joyfully reported, “He even moved so he could be closer to me.” You could hear the excitement of daddy’s little girl in her voice. This young woman is now a proud business owner with her partner. Since opening her business, she retired in her fast food job as the business is able to support her fully. She again credits the family program as a significant contributor to this achievement stating, “The program gave me the confidence I needed to believe in myself.” I remember being taken aback by this comment. Never in a million years would I have correlated business ownership with the family program, but as I reflected, it became clearer that with the love and support we find in our families the sky is the limit!

Q: Is there a situation that stand out?

A: I recall one client whose brother declined attending citing his current work in the addiction field and being in recovery himself. However, upon hearing of the experience of other family members at the end of the first day, he showed up on the second day of the program. I will always remember the words he penned on that survey, “Lystra, it helped me get in touch with parts of myself I didn’t think was possible.” Inasmuch as he came to support his sister, I believe he also came for his own healing.

Q: What is most satisfying to you about your job as leading the Family Program at Destination Hope?

A: The opportunity to see families rebuild the bridge of connection is absolutely the most satisfying aspect of my calling. During our last family program one client stated, “After a decade of marriage for the last 5 years we were just running the house.”  This client and his wife left the weekend with a renewed commitment to their marriage and him in his recovery. What could be more powerful than having the privilege of being the vessel that this healing flows through? It is humbling hearing families talk about their restored hope at the end of every program. I am truly grateful to God who I claim as my Higher Power for this sacred opportunity.