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Education & Support


What is NAMI’s Family Support Group?
NAMI’s Family Support Groups are for family members/loved ones of someone living with a mental illness — typically meets once a month.

The NAMI Support Group model (formerly called the “Family-to-Family Support Group model”) operates differently than other, more traditional “share-and-care” groups. The NAMI Support Group model offers a set of key structures and group processes for facilitators to use in common support group scenarios. These structures come with clear guidelines to follow; used together, they encourage full group participation in support group meetings. The structures of the new model feel comfortable for both seasoned and less-experienced facilitators because they guide the support group along in every The NAMI Facilitator Skills Support Group training enables support group facilitators to run useful, helpful support groups. NAMI affiliates know that effective support groups are a key facet of NAMI’s grassroots organization.

The NAMI Support Group model is not just for Family-to-Family Education course graduates, nor is it just for family members. It is a model that can be used by any NAMI support group. Encourage your state organization to begin to implement the NAMI Support Group model by sending two people to the NAMI National Facilitator Skills Workshop in June to become state trainers. Your state trainers will then conduct state and local level workshops to train facilitators in your state in the NAMI Support Group model.

“Using the support group model is so essential to the success of our family support groups. Without the training, networking, and support of the group members I fear that support groups would become nothing more than “cry” sessions or “gripe” sessions. As a group the collective wisdom covered a lot of possibilities towards the issues.”


What is NAMI’s Family-to-Family Program?
The NAMI Family-to-Family Education Program is a free, 12-week course for family caregivers of individuals with severe mental illnesses.

  • The course is taught by trained family members
  • All instruction and course materials are free to class participants
  • Over 300,000 family members have graduated from this national program

What does the course include?

  • Current information about schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder (manic depression), panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, borderline personality disorder, and co-occurring brain disorders and addictive disorders
  • Up-to-date information about medications, side effects, and strategies for medication adherence
  • Current research related to the biology of brain disorders and the evidence-based, most effective treatments to promote recovery
  • Gaining empathy by understanding the subjective, lived experience of a person with mental illness
  • Learning in special workshops for problem solving, listening, and communication techniques
  • Acquiring strategies for handling crises and relapse
  • Focusing on care for the caregiver: coping with worry, stress, and emotional overload
  • Guidance on locating appropriate supports and services within the community
  • Information on advocacy initiatives designed to improve and expand services.

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 for Consumers…

What is NAMI’s Peer-to-Peer Program?
Peer-to-Peer is a unique, experiential learning program for people with any serious mental illness who are interested in establishing and maintaining their wellness and recovery.

  • The course was written by Kathryn Cohan McNulty, a person with a psychiatric disability who is also a former provider and manager in the mental health field and a longtime mutual support group member and facilitator.
  • An advisory board comprised of NAMI consumer members, in consultation with Joyce Burland, Ph.D., author of the successful NAMI Family-to-Family Education program, helped guide the curriculum’s development.
  • Since 2005, NAMI’s Peer-to-Peer Recovery Program has been supported by AstraZeneca.

What does the course include?

  • Peer-to-Peer consists of ten two-hour units and is taught by a team of two trained “Mentors” and a volunteer support person who are personally experienced at living well with mental illness.
  • Mentors are trained in an intensive three day training session and are supplied with teaching manuals.
  • Participants come away from the course with a binder of hand-out materials, as well as many other tangible resources: an advance directive; a “relapse prevention plan” to help identify tell-tale feelings, thoughts, behavior, or events that may warn of impending relapse and to organize for intervention; mindfulness exercises to help focus and calm thinking; and survival skills for working with providers and the general public.

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