Home Visits Are Not Vacation–They Are Practice for Life After Treatment

In a recent CERTS Parent Education Webinar, Craig Rodabough the Clinical Director of Kolob Canyon, talked about the concept of home visits providing practice needed for life after treatment.  Practicing the new skills learned in the structured, predictable, consistent environment of treatment in a student’s home environment is essential to a student’s progress.  Home visits build trust and identify areas that need improvement.  Parents also learn to manage their own emotional reactivity.   Location is a powerful memory hook.  Students, parents and therapists need to discuss that home visits can bring up memories of trauma, sexual behavior that has guilt or shame attached, self-harm or substance abuse that might have occurred in the home prior to treatment.

Begin with the End in Mind during Home Visits

Students and parents know that program rules will not apply after treatment.   Parents need to establish their own rules that apply at home.  Parents should begin with the end in mind and know what they want the end to look like.  Parents need to then to remember that if they don’t require things of your student on a home visit, a student might feel why that the guidelines might not be important after treatment.  When parents do not follow through they teach their children not to trust them.

What do parents and children desire to see after treatment?  Families should identify specific skills and behaviors now during home visits.  It is difficult for families to hit a target you can’t see or describe.  It is also important to remember that neither a parent or child will hit the target every time.  What do you want to see after treatment?  There are so many things to consider: family activities, friends, social media, therapy, chores, schoolwork, cell phone use, computer time, keeping commitments, honesty, getting up and going to bed, chores, drug testing, sharing feelings and using DBT Skills.  Don’t set a rule or limit you are not willing to enforce.  Home visits allow families to practice, practice, practice.  Praise the positive, even the small things that you think everyone should do without praise.  Reward the positive with student’s gaining more privileges.

Manage Your Own Reactivity during Home Visits

If you want your child to talk to you about difficult scary things you cannot overreact as a parent.  Thoughts are not actions, don’t give into your fears.  Mistakes will happen, both for you and your child.  Often parent need to have their own support system to help them when their child returns home from treatment.  This support system could include your own therapist, friends, and family.  Students also need that same kind of support system.  Difficult emotions will arise and having someone to discuss them with will help both parents and student manage their feelings and reactivity to those feelings.