A CASEY-based medical clinic, which runs programs specifically aimed at helping people whose loved ones suffer from drug and alcohol addiction, is continuing to break new ground.
The monthly Vision of Hope counselling program was started by the Hallam Medical Group in June last year to equip people with the necessary skills to help their family members and close friends who are suffering from addiction.
Family counsellor Bernard D’Argent, who started up the program with mental health nurse Lyndsey Coutet, said these self-made carers often ignored their own need for help as they strived to assist others.
“The focus was always on helping the person struggling with the addiction, they came here seeking help for the person,” he said.
“As we went along we talked about it and we realised that they were also struggling – you’re not born with those skills to know how to care for someone with an addiction.
“Because we had this family sensitive approach, if you like, we started working on them, giving them skills to better cope with the situation.
“There was so much focus on the person – there is quite a lot of services out there for the person.
“We realised that maybe where it’s lacking is services for the carers.”
Vision of Hope was first started out of a rehabilitation centre as a once-off trial, with an invitation to continue if the participants felt they would benefit from it.
A year later the group has roughly 20 members, with new participants joining every month.
Psychologist Stephanie Chu also works with the group and said it was integral for the participants to be well informed on the specific effects of drugs and alcohol.
“A lot of people couldn’t identify, for instance, if it’s their son they’re seeing here or the drugs influencing their behaviour, their attitude towards us,” she said.
“There’s that discrepancy between the way they remember their loved one and the way they were actually seeing their loved one after being afflicted with alcohol and drugs.
“They come to us and say ‘I can’t connect with my loved ones because they’re portraying a different self that we don’t know’.”
Hallam Medical Group GP Ariane D’Argent has no doubt that without Vision of Hope, many of the program’s participants would remain afflicted with a feeling of misappropriated guilt that is almost impossible to shake.
“The dynamic has changed in the family to the point where it becomes very chaotic and the relationships are severed and initially, as any parent does, you think ‘I can fix it’ but then you realise you can’t,” she said.
“For them, there was a lot of shame. They felt very isolated and they thought they could just keep it and fix it.
“They had a huge burden that nobody could bare, they couldn’t do anything about it, and we had to eliminate that guilt feeling because, as a parent, you’ll ask ‘where did I go wrong?’.”
For more information or to join Vision of Hope, contact the Hallam Medical Group on 9796 5400.