Strengthening Families Together – 10 session group for family and friends

Do you have a relative or friend with a serious mental illness? Strengthening Families Together is a free 10-session group for families and friends, which provides information, skill-building, and support.

You will learn:

  • The different types of mental illnesses
  • The medications and treatments for mental illness
  • How to cope with and support your loved one living with a mental illness

This program, developed by the Schizophrenia Society of Canada is now available, replacing the “Family to Family” program.

How do I sign up? Where and when is the nearest course?

    1. Here is a brief list of some current courses, check out our full list of current classes. Be sure you check with your local regional educator for a complete list of courses and groups in your area.


  1. Most regions offer this course in spring and fall and take names for waiting lists in between. If you don’t see a course coming up, be sure to call your local BCSS Regional Educator or local branch and get on the list to be contacted when one is scheduled. If we don’t hear from you, we won’t know there is enough interest to hold a course, so it’s helpful to put your name on the list.

About the Program

Strengthening Families Together grew out of the strong belief that Canadian families have a right to reliable educational information on serious mental illnesses, regardless of where they reside.

This 10-session national education program for family members and friends of individuals with serious and persistent mental illnesses aims to increase accessibility to Canadian-based information on the topics associated with living daily with a mental illness.

Strengthening Families Together is about more than education: it is about strengthening family members and friends of individuals with a serious mental illness by providing support, awareness and tools.


Families have an opportunity to discuss the daily challenges they face and learn how to connect with others through membership in their local provincial society and chapter/branch.


Families get reliable and consistent information about mental illness, treatment options, causes, research, and available mental health services, in the hopes of diminishing the stigma attached to diagnosis.


Families are equipped with problem solving, coping, and advocacy and communication skills, and the know-how to develop their own local support group.


Strengthening Families Together Courses are often funded by donors and Health Authorities in the areas where they are delivered and are provided free of charge to participants.

Get Connected

To find out about a Strengthening Families Together course near you, please contact your
Local BC Schizophrenia Society Branch or Regional Educator.

The Program Outline

 Session 1 > What is Mental Illness?

  • Introduction to the program, facilitators, and other participants
  • Facts about mental illness
  • Facts about psychosis
  • Understanding the role of biopsychosocial factors
  • Stigma and myths that surround mental illness
  • Where to get help and support

Session 2 > Schizophrenia

  • Facts about schizophrenia
  • Symptoms of schizophrenia
  • Phases of schizophrenia
  • Treating schizophrenia
  • Activity: Voices
  • Discussion: One Word

Session 3 > Mood & Anxiety Disorder

  • Facts about clinical depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders and obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Treatment specifics of mood and anxiety disorders
  • Organizations that offer help and support
  • Activity: Let’s Review
  • 5 steps to help a family member

Session 4 > Coping as a Family

  • Challenges and needs of family members (with discussion)
  • Loss and grief (with discussion)
  • Caregiving and Caregiver Bill of Rights
  • Caregiver burnout and stress in the caregiving family
  • Activity: Tense-o-meter Relaxation Exercise

Session 5 > Coping as a Family – Part 2

  • Self-care planning
  • Support systems and respite
  • Effective communication
  • Activity: Practicing “I” Messages
  • Talking about mental illness
  • “IDEAL” problem solving skills
  • Activity: Practicing Problem Solving

Session 6 > Treating Mental Illness

  • The facts about the brain
  • The causes of mental illness
  • Treating mental illness
  • Medications and their side effects
  • Psychosocial Treatments
  • Recovery

Session 7 > Understanding the Mental Health System

  • The evolution of the mental health system in Canada
  • Basic needs of a person with mental illness
  • Mental health services
  • Activity: Ulysses Agreement
  • Who’s who in mental health and building relationships with health care professionals

Session 8 > Mental Illness, Addictions, & Criminal Justice

  • Facts about concurrent disorder and addictions
  • Impact of drugs and alcohol on the body
  • Impact of concurrent disorders on the family
  • Warning signs of concurrent disorder
  • Activity: Let’s Review
  • Mental illness and the criminal justice system
  • Discussion: You be the judge
  • Mapping the criminal justice system

Session 9 > Living with Mental Illness

  • Daily living tips
  • Goals and expectations
  • Relapse prevention and crisis planning
  • Activity: Creating a Crisis Plan
  • Facts about suicide (with discussion)

Session 10 > Striving for Change: Advocacy

  • How families can advocate for systems change
  • The AdvoKit: the steps involved in advocacy
  • Activity: Steps to Effective Advocacy
  • Evaluation and certificate of completion
  • End of group celebration