Your friend/loved one went away to a treatment facility. Now what? You want to support them and show them that you think about them, and a little love can go a long way to help in the recovery process.
First, find out the rules and regulations of their treatment facility. Each center is different and participants often have different privileges based on where they are in their program. Some questions you may want to ask: Are there calling hours? Visiting hours? Can you send them mail? What is the address? Do they have phone or laptop privileges?
At our OPI and OPI Intensives, we believe that supportive contact from loved ones benefits our participants, as we’ve repeatedly seen this to be the case. Usually participants have cell phone and laptop privileges if they choose to bring these personal items with them to milieu, so families have full access to call or e-mail loved ones directly. Visiting the premises is possible with an appointment, and participants may go off site after two weeks in OPI program, and after 30 days in OPI Intensive within curfew. Mail can be sent to our office where we then distribute to participants. Our participants’ treatment teams work with families to come up with a support plan that is best suited for each individual participant, so these regulations may vary.
If the facility allows, consider sending a care package. We do allow this at OPI and Roanne. I find participants are especially excited about things they can share with their new roommates and friends, like their favorite candy or baked goods. Also, sending something unique from your hometown or family is usually greatly appreciated, such as pictures of family, friends, and pets, or a local newspaper. These things help participants feel connected with home.
Other types of “snail mail” can be just as rewarding. Greeting cards, such as “thinking of you,” or traditional letters on stationary can be good options. I had one client receive a small journal with many letters, quotes, and sketches for different days written inside, and that was a huge hit. You can keep it simple or get creative.
Many times a participant is not ready or not able to visit home during treatment. This can be especially tough while transitioning, on holidays, or on other special days like a birthday or anniversary. However, you visiting the facility may be an option. Ask about visiting rules/regulations, when is an appropriate time, if any, and what would be an appropriate activity for you to do together. Your loved one may want to show you around and give you a tour, or maybe they want to get away from the center and hang out at local places nearby. Try to be supportive in what they feel most comfortable doing during your visit while still respecting program rules.
There is something about a video chat call that is so much more personal than a regular phone call. In this day and age, take advantage of all this technology to connect. Downloading an app like Skype, Facetime, or WhatsApp are usually free and easy to use. Don’t forget about the family pet, too! They will want some time to chat as well.
One participant I’m currently working with frequently shares with me her letters and care packages that she receives from back home. She stated that these things are mostly personal and have to do with her family, which reminds her that all the things and people she loves are still there waiting for her. She commented that receiving mail was especially helpful with her transition into OPI because she was still meeting people and building new friendships.
Keep in mind it’s normal for participants to feel life around them continues on without them while they are “stuck” in treatment. Use some of these suggestions or come up with your own to help your loved one know you think about them as much as they are thinking about you.
by Elizabeth Pfeiffer, Independent Living Specialist
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