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The CAP Model: A tool to keep in mind

It is normal for the whole family to feel uneasy when a loved one is diagnosed with a mental illness. Regardless of your role within the family, you play an important part in keeping it going.

Depending on your responsibilities, you may have a lot of questions on your mind. In such times, you may have difficulty identifying your needs. Know that this is normal. Family members often feel so overwhelmed by their loved one’s situation that they completely forget about themselves.

To help you to determine your needs, we created the CAP Model. It is a concept that will allow you to navigate the different roles you play as Client, Assistant and Partner. We’ll take a closer look at what CAP means by answering a few questions.


Identifying your role and needs as a client, assistant and partner

Is it okay to need help and be a CLIENT of the health care system?

YES. When supporting someone with a mental illness, it is normal to feel stress, anger, grief, guilt or shame. These are emotions that can cause you to experience serious mental and physical fatigue and distress and can lead to feeling discouraged. That’s why it’s important to take care of yourself.

Most importantly, do not think of it as selfish behaviour, as it is just the opposite. The level of comfort you develop with your loved one’s mental illness will allow you to deal with the difficulties associated with the situation more calmly.

Your health is important and should not be neglected. As a citizen and taxpayer, allow yourself to seek the help of specialized resources such as those offered by family service organizations. You have needs that are unique to you, so do not hesitate to identify yourself as a CLIENT of the health care system and take advantage of its services for yourself.


As an ASSISTANT, can I ask to speak to members of the treatment team?

YES. Your involvement in your loved one’s recovery makes you a key source of information. The reason is simple: you most likely have knowledge of their daily lives and routines, which allows you to keep those informed.

However, it is possible, and even likely, that you will encounter some obstacles. The reasons for this being that in past decades families were identified as being responsible for the illness or being overprotective of their loved one. The reservations the treatment team has about you may be rooted in these beliefs, and those involved may not recognize the positive role you can play. On the other hand, your loved one may not want health care professionals to inform you of their condition.

Fortunately, things are changing. Today, family members are being increasingly perceived as an asset to the recovery process. To guide you in developing a collaborative relationship with the treatment team, see Chapter 6 on therapeutic collaboration.

It is important to identify the role you wish to play, because this will help you better recognize your needs. In the 21st century, several terms are now used to describe the role of families in mental health care. Natural caregiver and family caregiver are by far the most well-known and refer to caregiving. In the mental health field, these terms do not reflect the fact that families do everything possible to support their loved one’s independence and recovery. Assisting a loved one refers to the support you can offer them, without taking over their life. It is a role that shows respect for your loved one and does not take away from the feelings you have for them or your respect for their autonomy.

In this context, it is essential that the treatment team have consideration for you in your role as an ASSISTANT. So do not be afraid to share information about your loved one’s progress and illness and set boundaries for yourself within this role.


Do I have a say in the provision of mental health services, and can I consider myself a PARTNER?

YES. You can participate in decision-making conversations regarding the services available in your area. Depending on your involvement and interests, you can act as a PARTNER and share your thoughts regarding service evaluation and opportunities for improvement. By going through your family services organization, you can make sure your voice is heard. Contact your local organization to learn more about your options.


Things to remember

As you can see, these three questions help you define your needs based on the three different roles you play in this process. Never forget that you are an important person to your loved one. Do not underestimate your abilities because your knowledge and experiences are unique. CAP is an acronym that uses three letters to describe your specific roles and needs as Client, Assistant and Partner. Always keep these keywords in mind.



L’indispensable | A Guide for Close Relatives of a Person with a Mental Illness (in French only)

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