Family-to-Family All Locations

Courses run in the evenings, in Port Coquitlam,  Squamish, the North Shore, and Vancouver. For registration and information for a community nearest you please contact the Family Support Centre at 604-926-0856 or send an email to

The Family-to-Family education program is one of Pathways’s most sought-after programs, offered twice a year in three locations: West Vancouver, Vancouver, and Port Coquitlam, and once a year in Squamish. If you are interested in taking the course, please contact us for registration information and course dates.

Family-to-Family is more than just an education course. It could be described as a course in empowerment. It changes the people who take it, giving them new strength and confidence. Through the course, family members gain the knowledge and skills to cope more effectively with their relatives with a mental illness.

The Family-to-Family curriculum consists of 12 sessions covering not only most aspects of serious mental illness and its treatment, but also how best to deal with the challenges of having a loved one stricken by the illness. Participants learn how to solve problems, communicate effectively, handle negative feelings, help their ill family member recover, and advocate for both families and their ill relatives.

The course is free. It is held one evening a week on successive weeks and is currently offered twice a year in West Vancouver beginning in January and September, and once a year in Squamish beginning in February. It is taught, using a team approach, by two trained family-member volunteers.

The course was developed under the aegis of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in the United States and is licensed for use in British Columbia.

The Family-to-Family curriculum

CLASS 1: Introduction
Special features of the course; learning about the normative stages of our emotional reactions to the trauma of mental illness; our belief system and principles; your goals for your family member with mental illness; understanding illness symptoms as a “double-edged sword.”

CLASS 2: Understanding Schizophrenia and Mood Disorders
Characteristic features of psychotic illnesses; Q&A about getting through the critical periods in mental illness; keeping a Crisis File

CLASS 3: Mood Disorders, Borderline Personality Disorder, Anxiety Disorders, PTSD, Dual Diagnosis
Types and sub-types of mood disorders; diagnostic criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder, Panic Disorder, OCD, PTSD; co-occurring brain and addictive disorders; telling our stories.

CLASS 4: Basics About the Brain
Functions of key brain areas; research on functional and structural brain abnormalities in the major mental illnesses; genetic revolution in biological, infectious, and neurodevelopmental “second hits” which may cause mental illness; the biology of recovery; individual stages of recovery from brain disorders.

CLASS 5: Problem-solving Skills Workshop
How to define a problem; sharing our problem statements; solving the problem; setting limits.

CLASS 6: Medication Review
How medications work; basic psychopharmacology of the mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia; medication side effects; key treatment issues; stages of adherence to medications; early warning signs of relapse.

CLASS 7: Inside Mental Illness
Understanding the subjective experience of coping with a brain disorder; problems in maintaining self-esteem and positive identity; gaining empathy for the psychological struggle to protect a person’s integrity in mental illness.

CLASS 8: Communication Skills Workshop
How illness interferes with the capacity to communicate; learning to be clear; how to respond when the topic is loaded; talking to the person behind the symptoms of mental illness.

CLASS 9: Self-care
Learning about family burden; sharing in relatives self-help groups; handling negative feelings of anger, entrapment, guilt and grief; how to balance our lives.

CLASS 10: The Vision and Potential of Recovery
Learning about key principles of rehabilitation and model programs of community support; a first-person account of recovery.

CLASS 11: Advocacy
Challenging the power of stigma in our lives; learning how to change the system; Pathways advocacy work; meet an advocate.

CLASS 12: Review, Sharing and Evaluation
Certification ceremony; party!